Traditional (Sacred) Tobacco versus Non-Traditional (Commercial) Tobacco

Elders (recognized individuals in First Nations and Métis communities who have earned respect through their wisdom and teachings) teach that tobacco is traditionally used to communicate with the Spirit World and The Creator; to pray and give thanks; and to heal the body and mind.1 When making an offering of tobacco, Indigenous people communicate their thoughts and feelings by praying for themselves, family, relatives and others.2,3 In this sense, using traditional tobacco can promote good health and assist with spiritual guidance and growth.2-4 The chemical and addictive properties of commercial tobacco do not fit with these purposes. It is the non-traditional use of tobacco – whether in the form of smoking commercial tobacco cigarettes, chewing tobacco or otherwise that causes all of the dangerous and harmful health effects.

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  1. Health Canada. (2016, March). First Nations & Inuit Health – Tobacco. Available from:
  2. Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. (n.d.). It’s time: Indigenous tools and strategies on tobacco – interventions, medicines & education: A toolkit for commercial tobacco interventions – Facilitator manual. Available from:
  3. National Association of Friendship Centres. (n.d.). My journey…. Available from:
  4. Tobacco Wise, Cancer Care Ontario Aboriginal Tobacco Program,
  5. *Image courtesy of Sudbury & District Health Unit/Shkagamik-Kwe Health Centre’s “This is My Tobacco” indigenous youth group