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The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe resists JUUL’s targeted exploitation
  1. Rae A O'Leary1,
  2. Judith T Zelikoff2,
  3. Gabriella Y Meltzer3,
  4. Natalie Hemmerich4,
  5. Esther Erdei5
  1. 1 Missouri Breaks Industries Research, Eagle Butte, South Dakota, USA
  2. 2 Environmental Medicine, New York University Grossman School of Medicine, New York, New York, USA
  3. 3 Social and Behavioral Sciences, New York University School of Global Public Health, New York, New York, USA
  4. 4 Public Health Law Center, Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA
  5. 5 Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of New Mexico - Albuquerque, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA
  1. Correspondence to Rae A O'Leary, Missouri Breaks Industries Research Inc, Eagle Butte, SD 57625, USA; rae.oleary{at}

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In the USA, Indigenous nations have operated independently since precolonisation.1 Today, 574 federally recognised American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) tribes continue to exercise their inherent sovereignty by governing themselves and their lands, which makes many federal and state laws unenforceable within the reservation boundaries.1–5 However, tribal nations also have a unique ability to use their sovereignty to independently protect their own native communities.1 The goal of this Industry Watch publication is to present a case study of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and how it used its sovereign power to redirect electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) maker JUUL from achieving a proposed ‘partnership’.

There is disproportionate use of e-cigarettes by the AI/AN Native (herein referred to as ‘Native’) youth, as shown in the National Youth Tobacco Survey covering 2014–2017. The survey demonstrated that current use of e-cigarettes was particularly high among Native youth (ie, AI/AN: 12.7%; Native Hawaiians/Other Pacific Islander: 18%) compared with other demographics (ie, Asian: 3.6%; black: 5.1%; Hispanic: 9.9%; white: 10.2%).2 However, due to aggregation of racial/ethnic categories in later national surveys beyond 2017, the actual prevalence of e-cigarette use among Native youth is currently unknown.3

Case study

According to the official Tribal Council meeting minutes dated 23 January 2019 and the Tribal Health Committee meeting minutes dated 1 February 2019, three representatives from JUUL Labs travelled to Eagle Butte, the centre of the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation on tribal land in rural South Dakota, to offer a ‘switching program’.6 During the January Tribal Council meeting, free starter kits were distributed to elected tribal officials (learnt from personal communication with multiple tribal officials in 2019), and during the February Tribal Health Committee meeting unauthorised smoking cessation and modified risk …

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  • Contributors RO'L, JTZ, GYM, NH and EE all conceptualised, drafted and edited the manuscript.

  • Funding This work was partly funded by the NIH/NIEHS through a P30 Center supplement to NYU, MIT and UNM HSC (P30 NYU CIEH Center; 5P30ES000260-51) to increase and support environmental public health awareness and education to the participating tribal nations. Partial funding support also came from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.