The tobacco epidemic in Alaska: Part 1 in a series on tobacco use and prevention for Alaska Native people

April 17, 2015

Alaska has made great strides in reducing tobacco use over the years, but to this day, tobacco is still the number one preventable cause of death and disease in Alaska and across the nation. Approximately 600 Alaskans die every year from direct tobacco use; this is more than deaths from suicide, motor vehicle crashes, chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, homicide, HIV/AIDS and influenza combined. Among Alaska Native people, more than 1 in 3 adults (38 percent) are current smokers and 19 percent of Alaska Native high school students reported current smoking. Since the first Surgeon General’s Report in 1964, evidence regarding the harmful effects of direct tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke has increased greatly. Today, smoking can be linked to 32 percent of all coronary heart disease deaths, 97 percent of all lung cancer deaths, and 79 percent of all cases of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, yet every one of these deaths and diseases can be prevented. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, coordinated efforts that combine educational, clinical, policy, and price increase interventions are proven to decrease tobacco use. More specifically, interventions may include asking every patient about their tobacco use status; reducing the cost of tobacco treatment; implementing tobacco-free workplace policies; and developing mass media campaigns to educate about the harmful effects of tobacco use. The ANTHC Tobacco Prevention and Control Program focuses its efforts on these interventions that have the capacity to end the epidemic of tobacco use in our communities. Over the next several weeks, look for a series of news items that profile the work of the Tobacco Prevention and Control Program in areas of: 1) Statewide tobacco policy; 2) Emerging threats: E-cigarettes and new tobacco products; 3) Health care system best practices for tobacco treatment; 4) Tribal health organization and community tobacco quit resources; and 5) Tribal and community partnerships for a tobacco-free Alaska. To learn more about the ANTHC Tobacco Prevention and Control Program email For more information on Alaska Tobacco Facts, visit

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