Editorial: Squaxin Island Tribe gambles with health

"The Squaxins of Mason County are gambling with the public's health by expanding their tobacco manufacturing and distribution business.

Squaxin Island tribal leaders want to increase cigarette production from 50,000 cartons a month to a number that could reach 250,000. Sales would spread beyond reservations and tribal smoke shops to encompass a national and mainstream distribution system. The gamble is a bid to raise tribal revenues. But good health is the trade-off. Smoking kills 440,000 Americans annually. An estimated $157 billion is lost due to medical expenses and lost productivity related to smoking.

The 1,000 members of the tribe are part of a sovereign nation with no obligation to Washington laws or to join in efforts to curb smoking and smoking-related illnesses. Nonetheless, the state's 29 tribes have lined up with health agencies to battle tobacco use.

A story by Seattle Times reporter Lynda V. Mapes outlines how tribes spend nearly $1 million in annual state funds on tobacco-cessation and counseling programs and similar efforts aimed at teens.

It is the correct response to serious health disparities, including a smoking rate 20-percent higher in Indian Country compared with the general population. Among young people, nearly one-fourth of Indians and Alaskan Natives in the 10th grade smoke, as compared with 15 percent of non-Native sophomores."

Get the Story:
Editorial: The Squaxins and cigarettes (The Seattle Times 5/15)

Relevant Links:
Squaxin Island Tribe - http://www.squaxinisland.org

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Squaxin Island Tribe to expand tobacco business (5/14)
Squaxin Island Tribe opens cigarette factory (3/30)