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2017-01-05 / Voices

Kick The Smoking Habit This Year

VI WALN
Sicangu Lakota
Sicangu Scribe

According to the American Indian Cancer Foundation, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths among American Indians. You will greatly reduce your chances of getting cancer if you are a non-smoker. Unfortunately, American Indians probably have the highest rates of tobacco use in the world.

Contrary to what you may believe, commercial tobacco is not ceremonial. Ceremonial tobacco is a plant grown organically, without the additives found in the commercial tobacco we all can buy in local stores. The cigarettes, loose tobacco and chewing tobacco you purchase at grocery or convenience stores are all loaded with carcinogens. A carcinogen is a substance which is known to cause cancer.

Today, there are countless social events in Indian Country where a lot of people are smoking too many cigarettes or stuffing their mouths with that nasty chewing tobacco. Pow-wows, meetings, conferences, high school sporting events, tribal program offices and even ceremonies are all marked by our people huddled in a designated smoking area, puffing on those killer cigarettes. Those of you who smoke cigarettes or chew tobacco are role modeling a deadly behavior. Commercial tobacco users are showing our young people that it’s okay to use a deadly substance that will inevitably cause serious illness. Tobacco use greatly contributes to failing health and even death. Today, many of people have found the strength to quit using tobacco. They are enjoying a healthier life.

Nicotine is a drug and is highly addictive. Cigarette smoking and chewing tobacco are addictions. Babies and children can die from a nicotine overdose. People who stop using nicotine may report intense withdrawals. The withdrawal experience from cigarette smoking may be just as intense as that of a heroin addict. Still, it is possible to completely stop smoking cigarettes or chewing tobacco.

Non-smokers are adversely affected by the second-hand smoke exhaled from cigarette smokers. Employees who work in many Indian casinos where cigarette smoking is allowed, have eventually developed respiratory or other health problems due to breathing in the toxic cigarette smoke permeating their workplace. It’s not fair to subject nonsmokers to the second-hand smoke that fills the Rosebud Casino today. Many people do not patronize Indian Casinos because of the cigarette smoke.

Cigarette smoke also leaves behind a residual known as third hand smoke. This is the brownish or yellowish film that gets on everything in a room where a person smokes cigarettes. If you smoke inside your car, this residual can be wiped off of your inner car windows. Just think, this brownish/ yellowish residual also gets on everyone who is riding in the car with you when you are smoking that cigarette. Your children don’t deserve this kind of contamination.

This week marks my ninth year of a smoke free life. Before that, I lived most of my life as a cigarette smoker. Still, I found the strength and courage to quit smoking cigarettes. My youngest Takoja have never seen me with a lit cigarette in my mouth. They are the reason why I chose to stop role modeling the deadly behavior of cigarette smoking.

If I can quit, so can you.

*Vi Waln is an enrolled citizen of the Sicangu Lakota Nation and is nationally published journalist.

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