Natives have highest smoking
rate and are targeted by tobacco industry
Brown, a junior at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee,
has written a children's book called "Denali Dreams." The
goal of the book is to help Native American children resist
the pressures of smoking commercial tobacco. (photo by Nick
Krug - Lawrence Journal-World
Logan Brown, a junior majoring in business at
Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, has written "Denali
Dreams," a book that promotes a positive anti-smoking message
geared toward Native children, reports the Lawrence Journal-World.
Denali, the book's title character, is an Alaska Native elementary
student who draws inspiration from the mountain after which she
was nameda name that means "the high one" or "the great one"
in Koyukon Athabascanto work hard as a student and soccer
player. Denali keeps her goals in mind and resists her friend's
offer to share a cigarette while visualizing the damage it would
do to her lungs.
Brown is completing a fellowship with the Truth Initiative Foundation,
a nonprofit previously known as the American Legacy Foundation and
funded by the 1998 settlement between major tobacco companies and
46 states, the District of Columbia and five territories.
Native Americans have the highest smoking rate among all ethnicities,
and Brown told LJ-World she wrote this book to help counter that.
It was printed through a partnership between the foundation, the
Bureau of Indian Education, and the U.S. Department of the Interior.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
nearly 9 out of 10 smokers tried their first cigarette by the age
of 18, and 99 percent tried smoking by the age of 26. And the Maine
Center for Disease Center and Prevention points out that American
Indians smoke at a rate of 32.4 percent, which is the highest percentage
of any ethnicity.
"Tobacco companies have tailored their messages toward Native
Americans," Brown told LJ-World. "They are spending so much money
marketing to the community."
Brown is correct. According to research done by the University
of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, the tobacco industry has sponsored
Native American events, and used Native imagery and branding to
target Native customers. Take for instance the Natural American
Spirit brand, who many believe is a Native-owned company because
of the branding and image on the package, but it is not.
"The Santa Fe [Natural] Tobacco company has misled and misrepresented
themselves as being an 'Indian-owned' company, which they are not.
Their brand implies that smoking their product is better because
it contains no additives or chemicals and is thus 'natural.' They
also promote Native American imagery on their brands as a way for
their consumers who are non-Native to 'create ties to American Indians,'
'reassure their choice to smoke,' and as a reminder of tobacco's
original use in its natural state," reads the research.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also points to
how the tobacco industry targets marketing to minorities. "Marketing
to Hispanics and American Indians/Alaska Natives has included advertising
and promotion of cigarette brands with names such as Rio, Dorado,
and American Spirit."
To help with "Denali Dreams," Brown visited an elementary school
in New Mexico. "They drew pictures of how they thought it should
be illustrated," Brown said. "A graphic artist worked from that,
but the illustrations are 100 percent the ideas of the students."
"I've had excellent feedback so far from the Bureau of Indian
Education," she said. "They found it very applicable. I've read
to a few classes of kids. It was very successful so far [at] getting
the message across."