Native Cigarettes and Tax-Exempt Tobacco

Native Cigarettes are made using high-quality tobacco that is grown without the use of harmful chemicals or pesticides. This gives smokers a purer smoking experience than traditional cigarettes which are often loaded with chemicals that can cause a number of health issues including respiratory problems, cancer, and heart disease.

The tobacco industry on some of the nation’s biggest reservations has become a cash cow, even as national anti-smoking campaigns and rising taxes are taking a toll on overall smoking rates among American Indians. But many tribes that sell cheaper, tax-exempt cigarettes are finding themselves in a legal bind. A state court has ruled that wholesalers and distributors must pay sales tax on name-brand tobacco sold to tribal outlets, which then pass the savings to their customers. That has put a big dent in sales of Marlboros, Camels, and Newports at Indian-owned stores in central New York.

Understanding Native Cigarettes: Tradition and Taste

Boudreau’s White Earth Nation has taken some steps to reduce smoking rates, banning smoking in government buildings and enforcing smoke-free rules around the reservation. But she and other advocates say it will take more than generic warnings about how bad tobacco is to turn the tide of addiction. They say rebuilding respect for the plant as a sacred part of Native culture would help, as would a push to create alternative jobs and businesses that don’t rely on cigarette sales.

At Kahnawake and Six Nations, where the smuggling trade is flourishing, band leaders are drafting regulations that could set standards, allow factory inspections and levy some kind of business fee. But the tobacco entrepreneurs see the move as a ploy by the tribal councils to claw back some of the power they have lost to state laws, anti-smoking activists and the big, commercial tobacco companies that now dominate the market.