Traditional vs. Commercial Tobacco

It is vital to know the differences between traditional and commercial tobacco when working effectively with American Indians. Some tribal people practice the use of traditional (also called ceremonial or sacred) tobacco daily, weekly, monthly (for healing and prayer) or annually for planting or harvest season, so please be respectful of their tribal beliefs and customs.


What Traditional Tobacco Is and Is Not

Traditional tobacco is not planted, grown or harvested with any chemicals. It is pure.

Traditional tobacco is used in prayer. It helps to carry prayers up to the Creator.

Traditional tobacco is often given to honor an elder, drum, singer or a traditional healer or leader.

Traditional tobacco is used for medicine to heal. This can be done in variety of ways such as blowing the smoke, smudging or as a poultice.

Traditional tobacco is used by many tribes for ceremonies including funerals, weddings, and annual harvest.

Traditional tobacco is not used to give one pleasure, so it is not inhaled, as one does a cigarette. It is used respectfully with honor. It is sacred.

To learn more, check out Keep It Sacred by the National Native Network,

While burning or using commercial tobacco products on campus is prohibited by the 100% tobacco-free policy requirement, service providers should work collaboratively with tribal people they serve to respect tradition and find ways for people to engage in sacred practices that both adhere to the requirement and meet the needs of clients. Reach out to North Carolina DHHS’s American Indian Tobacco Coordinator and your regional commercial tobacco control manager for assistance in doing this.


American Indian QuitlineNC

American Indian QuitlineNC is a service that helps American Indians in North Carolina quit using commercial tobacco. Callers can expect to get support via phone with quitting from American Indian coaches or coaches who have the training they need to respect traditional tobacco and to help American Indian North Carolinians quit commercial tobacco.

American Indian QuitlineNC doubles your chances of quitting commercial tobacco for good. Call 1- 888-7AI-QUIT (888-724-7848) to reach American Indian QuitlineNC for free support.