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Guest Opinion. On May 31, World No Tobacco Day, Cherokee Nation unveiled our latest initiative in the ongoing fight against tobacco use among tribal citizens. Cherokee people have always looked out for each other’s well-being, and this new traditional and social media campaign continues that commitment.

The “Keep It Traditional” campaign is designed to reduce tobacco use, including smoking, dipping and vaping, through a series of innovative programs and increased support for those on the road to quitting. While tobacco has held a traditional role among the Cherokee people for centuries, our goal is to ensure it is used appropriately and healthfully.

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The statistics highlight the urgent need for this renewed effort. Nationally, smoking rates have declined from 40 percent in the 1960s to 12.5 percent in 2020, yet in Oklahoma, the rate remains much higher at 18.5 percent. Within the Cherokee Nation, smoking prevalence is even more alarming, with Adair County at 24 percent, Cherokee County at 23 percent, and Craig and Mayes counties at 22 percent. Additionally, we are seeing vape sales on the rise, particularly among younger citizens.

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr.

To combat these issues, we are dedicating funds from the Public Health and Wellness Act and the tribe’s almost $2 million e-cigarette settlement to double annual budgets for tobacco cessation programs. The planned efforts include tripling the financial incentive for tribal employees to complete smoking cessation classes; a public health phone app designed for teens; and the employment of a full-time Tobacco Prevention Program coordinator.

Our public health team is actively developing new and creative ideas to provide accessible and culturally appropriate resources for citizens to quit smoking and vaping. Working together alongside Deputy Chief Bryan Warner and the Council of the Cherokee Nation, we are steadfast in promoting holistic wellness for our Cherokee Nation citizens. The goal is not only to reduce the prevalence of dipping, smoking and vaping, but to help Cherokees improve in every aspect of their health. We are combining respect for traditional practices with a modern understanding of wellness.

The “Keep It Traditional” campaign includes outreach programs and educational resources at health centers across the 14-county reservation and at Cherokee community events nationwide.

It is a blessing to help Cherokees overcome tobacco addiction. Together, we are improving the spiritual, mental and physical health of Cherokee Nation citizens of all ages.

Chuck Hoskin, Jr. is the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.

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Author: Chuck Hoskin JrEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.