Indian Country Today is to be commended for covering the latest news in Indian country concerning the taxation of cigarettes. Unfortunately, the paper has yet to cover how increasing taxation on cigarettes will benefit the tribes from a health perspective.
Cigarettes contain many harmful, carcinogenic and addictive substances, including formaldehyde, cadmium and hydrogen cyanide. The tobacco industry has done an ominously effective job in promoting the use of this deadly substance in our Indian communities. Today, rates of smoking among our Native youth are the highest in the country compared to non-Indian youth. We know that youth who begin smoking at younger ages are more likely to develop nicotine dependence than those who begin smoking later, thus making quitting more difficult. This, of course, results in the development of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses for both the smoker and others who are exposed to second- and third-hand smoke. However, one of the most effective measures to decrease rates of smoking initiation among youth is to increase taxes on cigarettes.
As a Diné physician and public health advocate whose career has been dedicated to the health of our Native people, I urge ICT to expand on the health implications of increasing taxation on cigarettes in Indian country.
Black Hills Center for American Indian Health
Rapid City, South Dakota