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Tobacco is an important part of American Indian and Alaska Native culture. Yet, cigarette smoking is not a traditional way to use tobacco. American Indians and Alaska Natives have the highest smoking rates of any group in the United States. In fact, 29 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native women smoke — more than any other minority. Smoking increases your risk of major health problems, including:

Smoking causes lung cancer. Lung cancer is a leading cause of cancer deaths for American Indians and Alaska Natives. Women who smoke have a higher risk of cervical cancer. Women who take birth control pills and also smoke have a higher risk of stroke.

Smoking can make illnesses last longer and make it harder to get pregnant.

Smoking during pregnancy can cause the baby to be born too early and other problems. Smoking is also a risk factor for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). In one study of pregnant mothers, American Indians and Alaska Natives reported higher rates of smoking during the last three months of pregnancy.

On top of all the health problems caused by smoking, it also stains your teeth, fingers, and fingernails, gives you bad breath, and causes wrinkles.

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More information on Smoking

Read more from womenshealth.gov

  • Smoking and How to Quit - These pages from womenshealth.gov empower women to quit smoking and all forms of tobacco use. Learn why quitting matters to your health, your quality of life, and the health of others. The site also offers strategies that can help you quit for good.

Explore other publications and websites

  • American Indian Health - This website is an information portal to information about the health of native peoples of the United States. The topics include cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and environmental health.
  • Fact Sheets and Prevention Tips (Copyright © NPAIHB) External Website Policy - This is a list of resources from the National Tribal Tobacco Prevention Network about secondhand smoke, smoking cessation, traditional tobacco, and more.
  • Quit Guide - This online resource is designed to help you at any stage of the quitting process, whether you're still thinking about quitting, have made the decision to quit, or have already taken steps to quit and just need help maintaining a smoke-free lifestyle. Both ex-smokers and experts have contributed to this guide.
  • Smokefree.gov - Smokefree.gov helps people quit smoking. It offers information and professional assistance that can support both your immediate and long-term needs as you become, and remain, a nonsmoker. Resources include telephone hotlines, print materials, and a text messaging service.
  • Smoking & tabacco use: Quit tips - This publication gives tips on how to quit smoking and encourages smokers to take control with a plan of action that will ensure success. It also contains a list of resources to contact for help.
  • pdf icon  Traditional Tobacco (Copyright © NPAIHB) External Website Policy - This brochure lists facts about the uses of traditional tobacco in Native American culture and explains the difference between traditional tobacco and commercial tobacco.

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Content last updated: May 18, 2010.

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