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Native American Teens Stop Smoking


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Native American traditions have long included the use of tobacco. But today's cigarettes and chewing tobacco are far more addictive than in generations past. in 2010, Reed Galin showed us a tobacco education program aimed at stopping teen smoking.


(Locator: Robeson County, North Carolina)

In Robeson County, North Carolina tobacco has been a major cash crop for generations.

The Rev. Gary Locklear: "Tobacco was king. It paid the bills. We continued to grow tobacco and continued to treat the disease that it created."

The Reverend Gary Locklear has lost four siblings to tobacco-related diseases.

The Rev. Gary Locklear, Native American Cooperative Ministry: "heart trouble, diabetes, emphysema."

Five years ago, North Carolina partnered with the United Methodist Rockingham District Native American Cooperative Ministry in an effort to reach young people before they start a life-long habit.

Presenter shows liquid in jug: "It's one pack a day for a year, a year's worth of tar in the lungs."

Locklear and his staff talk to teenagers, mostly at United Methodist churches.

Presenter: "Do you know anyone that has lung cancer? Yes,you do?"

Tobacco use among young people -Native American youth, in particular -is higher here than elsewhere

Holly Bullard, age 17: "Wow, at our school I'd say at least 65% because we can't go in the bathrooms without cigarette smoke."

 and so are diseases related to cigarettes and smokeless tobacco.

Presenter shows picture of disfigured young man: "at 17 he already had oral cancer, and he's had a lot of surgeries."

Almost 40% of Robeson County residents are Native American, mostly of the Lumbee Tribe. Cultural history adds to the problem, because of tobacco's significance.

The Rev. Locklear: "It was used at times of worship. Even today when tribes meet each other at large events, tobacco is given to other tribes as a symbol of respect and pride."

Locklear lighting tobacco leaves: "The purpose is for the cleansing of the soul."

But modern tobacco is different, with the use of pesticides and chemical additives that cause addiction.

Presenter: "Both of them died from the disease itself."

These girls have signed pledges not to smoke or chew.

Sonyasha Strickland, age 16: "I don't honestly understand how you could know what's in a cigarette and what it's doing to your body and still be able to do it. Because it would be on my conscience. It would bother me."


Locklear estimates ten to fifteen percent of teens they talk to sign the contract not to use tobacco. For more information, contact theRev. Gary Locklear or program coordinatorLouisa Locklear of the Rockingham District Native American Cooperative Ministry at 910-374-4059.

Posted: Nov. 17, 2010

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