Skip to content
Leather pouch with traditional Native American beadwork accents.

Commercial Tobacco Targeting

We have lost so many of our loved ones—our grandmothers, grandfathers, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunties and uncles—to early death and disease caused by commercial tobacco.

How Commercial Tobacco Exploits

Commercial tobacco companies have tied their products to sacred tobacco traditions for more than 200 years. They hijacked our culture by using Native images and symbols (such as patterns, feathers and headdresses) in their advertising and packaging. For decades, this type of advertising has helped tobacco companies recruit new smokers and keep Native people addicted.

Commercial tobacco companies take advantage of tribal people because they know:

  • Nearly half of Native American adults in South Dakota smoke cigarettes. Source
  • Regular exposure to others smoking or using commercial tobacco products makes it harder to quit.
  • Native Americans metabolize nicotine faster than other ethnic groups which leads to a higher level of dependence. Source
  • Native American youth start using tobacco products at an earlier age than other populations.
  • They don’t pay state cigarette taxes when their products are sold on reservations.
  • State-enforced smoke-free laws don’t apply on reservations.

SD Quitline

In South Dakota, nearly 50% of the Lakota use commercial tobacco — more than 2X the rate of other populations.

Honor Every Breath


Tobacco companies use many tactics to target our people including:

  • Promotions at casinos, rodeos and pow-wows
  • Sponsoring tribal events
  • Offering giveaways, discounts, coupons and free samples
  • Prominent placement of in-store signs and displays—often at child’s-eye level
  • Building alliances with tribal leaders to defeat tobacco control policies
  • Offering free products and money in exchange for tribal data — Source

New Products—Same Tactics

Commercial tobacco companies continue to develop new products to get the next generation (our children and grandchildren) addicted.

Almost all e-cigarettes and vape products contain nicotine. Attractive packaging, sleek devices and a variety of flavors distract us from the harmful chemicals they include and make it easy to forget the high levels of addictive nicotine they contain.

Get the facts on vape’s harmful effects and how it keeps us addicted.

How to Fight Back

Don’t buy or use commercial tobacco products of any kind—this includes cigarettes, chew, hookah, e-cigarettes and vape. Remember:

  • Our elders weren’t able to practice our traditions with sacred tobacco—but we can.
  • Commercial tobacco companies have used our sacred traditions to take advantage of our culture.
  • Nicotine addiction robs our brothers and sisters of their health and money.
  • Commercial tobacco and nicotine make us sick. 
  • Tobacco companies target our children and grandchildren with new, highly addictive products.
  • Help your friends and family quit commercial cigarettes, chew and vape.
  • Share your quit stories and strategies, and stand together against commercial tobacco.