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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Minnesota Study Finds High Smoking Rates among American Indians in Minneapolis-St. Paul

A recent analysis from University of Minnesota School of Public Health Professor Dr. Jean Forster finds smoking rates are high for urban American Indian residents in two counties of Minnesota’s Minneapolis-St. Paul area.

[Photo: Dr. Jean Forster]

The study was published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The study of 964 American Indians in Hennepin and Ramsey counties showed 72 percent of those in the 25-44 age group smoke cigarettes.

Secondhand smoke is also still a health issue, with 42 percent of American Indians experiencing exposures at work even though Minnesota has a strong smoke-free workplace law.

Nationally, American Indians have the highest rates of commercial tobacco use of any racial/ethnic group, and despite the progress made in reducing the national smoking rate to an all-time low, the survey data shows that big disparities remain.

“Tobacco control as we are doing it in Minnesota is working for the population as a whole but not for American Indians,” said Dr. Forster.  “The huge and deadly disparity in cigarette smoking rates and exposure to secondhand smoke must be addressed.”

Additional study statistics reveal that overall 59 percent of survey respondents were current smokers, 19 percent were former smokers, and 22 percent had never smoked.

Researchers suggest investigating a culturally appropriate approach to reducing commercial tobacco use and recognizing the role traditional tobacco use has in the American Indian community.

Some possible approaches may include engaging traditional healers and respected elders in reducing commercial tobacco use, fostering respect for traditional ceremonial use of tobacco as a reason for not smoking recreationally, and addressing tobacco addiction in the context of social determinants of health specific to American Indians.