Smoking and Diabetes Among Native Americans

How commercial tobacco use can contribute to diabetes.

Smoking and Diabetes Among Native Americans

The sacred use of tobacco for spiritual growth and guidance has been a part of Native American ceremonies for thousands of years. However, tobacco companies have exploited this cultural practice to sell commercial tobacco — leading to more preventable deaths and smoking-related health issues within Native American communities than in any other group.

Here are some additional facts:

  • According to the CDC, diabetes is the fourth leading cause of death among Native Americans.
  • Studies have shown that the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes is 30-40% higher for tobacco users when compared to nonsmokers.
  • About 2 out of 3 Native Americans who experience kidney failure also have diabetes.
  • More than 1 in 5 Native American adults smoke commercial cigarettes or use other tobacco products, such as dip, which increases the risk of diabetes.

How are smoking and diabetes connected?

How are smoking and diabetes connected?

As mentioned above, tobacco use can lead to several harmful health effects. However, it can be especially risky if you have diabetes or are at risk of developing it. If you are at risk of diabetes, smoking can speed up the process by slowing down bodily functions.

Here are some additional dangers:

  • Chemicals from tobacco break down healthy cells, harming your immune system and causing inflammation. This can slow insulin production, which can make your diabetes diagnosis come a lot faster.
  • People who smoke have a higher risk of holding weight in their mid-section, which increases the risk of Type 2 diabetes.

If you already have diabetes, one of the best things you can do for your body is quit tobacco. Nicotine, the addictive chemical in cigarettes, increases sugar levels, which can harden your blood vessels and make it harder to manage your blood sugar — making your insulin less effective as a result.

Diabetes can also cause:

  • Heart disease
  • Blindness
  • Nerve damage

Additionally, the dangers of smoking cigarettes can damage your blood vessels, causing plaque to build up in your artery walls — which can lead to life-threatening health complications.

When you’re ready to quit, we’re ready to help

When you’re ready to quit, we’re ready to help.

No matter your age or product of choice, the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline has FREE resources to help you quit, including:

  • A free supply of patches, gum or lozenges
  • Coach support through text messages or phone calls
  • Online resources such as a personalized Dashboard, live group sessions and encouraging emails
  • Quit tips and craving busters to help fight temptation

Remember, sacred use and commercial use are not the same. The Helpline’s Coaches understand the difference and are ready to help you succeed. Quitting commercial tobacco is one of the best things you can do for your health and your family. When you’re ready to quit, sign up here.


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