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Minnesota researchers seek to use American Indian imagery, once used to sell cigarettes, to cut tobacco use

Tobacco companies used American Indian imagery and stereotypes for decades to sell cigarettes to the nation’s white majority. Now Minnesota researchers hope that awareness of this insensitive marketing will motivate American Indians to quit smoking.

Ads featuring real or fictitious Indian icons, such as traditional headdresses and pipes, and offensive references such as “dumb injun,” were common in the first half of the 20th century, according to researchers with ClearWay Minnesota, a quit-smoking program funded by the state’s landmark 1998 legal settlement with tobacco companies. Later, the tone of the ads shifted, and some manufacturers used Indian imagery to suggest that their cigarettes were more natural and that smoking them was a spiritual experience.


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