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Native owned and grown or demeaning and offensive? American Indian adults’ perspectives on Natural American Spirit branded cigarettes


Introduction Owned by a major US tobacco company with no American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) tribal affiliation, Natural American Spirit (NAS) cigarette packs feature an American Indian warrior, thunderbird and peace pipe. The current study examined AI/AN adults’ perceptions of NAS cigarette packs in the US, which have not been reported on prior.

Methods AI/AN adults were recruited via Qualtrics national panels (n=500; 64% female, age M=39.9 years, 47% current smokers) in 2020. After viewing NAS pack images online (front, back and sides), participants were asked about NAS tribal affiliation, health perceptions and purchase intentions. Participants also wrote-in what the NAS pack logos meant to them.

Results Most participants (65%) believed NAS is AI/AN-owned and/or grown on tribal lands. Among current smokers, beliefs of an AI/AN affiliation were associated with misperceptions of NAS being a healthier cigarette and with greater intention to purchase NAS cigarettes (p’s<0.01). Participants who did not believe NAS was grown or owned by AI/AN tribes were more likely to describe the NAS warrior logo as cultural misappropriation (17%) than participants who believed NAS was AI/AN tribally affiliated (4%, p<0.001).

Conclusions The findings indicate a dichotomy in beliefs among surveyed AI/AN adults regarding NAS brand cigarettes. A majority held the misconception that NAS is tribally affiliated, while an informed and concerned minority characterised the branding as cultural misappropriation. The current packaging is reasonably expected to result in beliefs that NAS cigarettes are AI/AN tribally affiliated, and these beliefs may be associated with misperceptions of lesser harm.

  • social marketing
  • priority/special populations
  • disparities
  • advertising and promotion

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