Squaxin Island Tribe to expand tobacco business

The Squaxin Island Tribe of Washington plans to take its tobacco business nationwide.

The tribe operates a factory that produces about 50,000 cartons of cigarettes a month. The Skookum Creek Tobacco Co products are only sold on the reservation.

The tribe wants to expand the business and market the products off the reservation. "The real business is to go after Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds," Bob Whitener, CEO of Island Enterprises, the tribe's business arm, told The Seattle Times.

The tribe is aware of high smoking rates among Native Americans and the dangers associated with tobacco use. In Washington, about 37 percent of adult Americans Indians and Alaska Natives smoke, double the state average, and nearly 25 percent of Native teens smoke, compared to 15 percent of their counterparts. Death rates for lung cancer and heart disease are also higher.

But with the tobacco company providing jobs and revenue -- the tribe is the second largest employer in the county -- officials see the positive benefits of the venture. "Who better than a government that puts the money into child care and police to do this?" said Whitener.

Get the Story:
Tribe to expand cigarette venture, but at what cost? (The Seattle Times 5/14)
State tribes taking steps to snuff out smoking (The Seattle Times 5/14)

$rl Squaxin Island Tribe - http://www.squaxinisland.org

Squaxin Island Tribe opens cigarette factory (3/30)