Tanana Natives file to intervene in tobacco lawsuit

Posted: Wednesday, February 21, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The Native Village of Tanana filed a motion Tuesday to intervene in the federal government's ongoing lawsuit against the nation's biggest tobacco producers.

Tanana Natives and the Cherokee Nation seek to intervene on behalf of all Indian tribes and tribal organizations that have furnished or paid for health care for their members. The motion seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

According to the complaint, Natives have been disproportionately hurt by smoking-related illnesses. About 20 percent of all Native health care costs have been attributed to tobacco-related diseases and more than half of Native high school students smoke or use smokeless tobacco -- a rate substantially higher than any other group in the United States.

The complaint says that 43 percent of Alaska Natives smoke -- nearly double the statewide smoking rate of 26.6 percent.

Attorneys for the Native groups said they expect a decision on the tribes' motion to intervene in a few months. The government's tobacco litigation is scheduled to go to trial in July of 2003.

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