OPINION: Kiana council member rallies against tobacco
In November we presented information on the tobacco use in rural settings in a college workshop. We described the addiction process and resultant health effects from nicotine and the various chemicals contained in tobacco. The issue hit close to home for me, the rate of tobacco addiction is high in the villages. It is not uncommon to see high school and junior high students taking "smoke breaks" between classes. It pains me to see addictions starting at such a young age, and in talking to people who have quit, it ranked as one of the hardest experiences of their lives to undertake.
The issue of high tobacco addiction rates, and underage users has been widely advertised and there are many campaigns to prevent the use of tobacco in our region. It is to the point where we are saturated daily with posters, flyers, and other materials. Has this issue gotten to the point where everyone is tired of thinking about it? Has it been advertised as a health risk long enough that the problem is solved? This is a serious issue among our communities and should not be overlooked as it is still a problem.
For reasons unknown to me, underage tobacco use is tolerated by some parents and community members.
Nicotine, is an addictive substance contained in tobacco. The way drugs affect our native communities are felt and noticed much more in our smaller communities compared to the bigger cities due to the smaller size. Everyone in the community is directly affected by actions of those around them. When parents and relatives smoke near their children, it imprints upon them, whether it be chewing snuff or smoking a cigarette, and raises the risks of them using it in the future.
After I researched and identified the problems and health risks associated with tobacco I felt it would do no good to just decry the use without identifying solutions and prevention methods that can be applied to our community.
This fall, Maniilaq Association's Tobacco Prevention program visited our IRA to distribute a resolution that prohibited tobacco use on or near tribal council properties. We passed the resolution unanimously. At the city council level we have a similar measure in place. The school also has a no tobacco use policy. These are great measures, if they worked effectively. The problem I see with them is there is no enforcement of these policies in our community.
To me I feel as though there is no acceptable middle ground here. By not enforcing these policies and such that we have passed it undermines the reasons why we passed the measures in the first place.
In order to stop the addiction cycles that affect us all we should take a step back and identify what has caused the addiction in the first place. There can be many reasons, though we should be reminded that our actions do affect those around us in our small communities. Tobacco use, especially among minors is a problem in our region and not one that should be taken lightly. My friends and family members have been affected by the health costs and financial costs of tobacco use.
I am 21 and have been on our tribal and city councils for nearly three years and I hope to one day see a drug free community that promotes positive well-being for everyone in the village. It has been said it takes a village to raise a child, if so we should be promoting healthy villages for our children.
My condolences go out to those who have lost loved ones to tobacco related illnesses.
Ely Cyrus is a Kiana Tribal Council member.