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American Samoa Drug Threat Assessment
June 2001


American Samoa

Map of the southern Pacific Ocean area detailing the location of American Samoa and the capital, Pago Pago.









Note: This map displays features mentioned in the report.

American Samoa, the southernmost U.S. territory, has been an unincorporated possession of the United States for the past century. The U.S. Department of the Interior administers the island territory. Located 2,600 miles southwest of Honolulu, Hawaii, American Samoa is halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand. The territory consists of seven volcanic islands totaling 76 square miles--slightly larger than Washington, D.C.
Fast Facts
American Samoa
Population (2000) 65,446
Land area 76 square miles
Capital Pago Pago
Principal industries Government services, tuna processing, tourism

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The estimated population in April 2000 was 65,446. American Samoans are U.S. citizens who may enter the United States or other U.S. territories freely. Nearly 90 percent of the population is Polynesian. While English is the official language, most Samoans are bilingual.

The island of Tutuila is home to the territorial capital of Pago Pago, where most American Samoans live. Tutuila has an excellent transportation infrastructure, including Pago Pago International Airport and one of the best strategically located natural deep-water harbors in the world. The airport includes two paved runways that accommodate all types of commercial aircraft.

The territorial economy is strongly linked to that of the United States, with which American Samoa conducts over 80 percent of its external trade. The local government is the largest single employer. Major industries consist of tuna processing plants, including canneries owned by industry giants Van Camp and Star Kist, and the port and dry dock facilities of Pago Pago. Tourism is a slowly developing industry.

According to the 1997 Youth Risk Behavior Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the percentages of lifetime and past 30-day marijuana use by American Samoa students are approximately half those of U.S. nationwide percentages. The percentages for all other drug use categories, except steroid and inhalant use, were equal to or less than U.S. nationwide percentages.

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The Samoan culture is based on family relations and family-owned lands. Chiefs (known as matai) serve as leaders of extended families and guide decisions about land and other family resources. These village chiefs choose a total of 18 senators to serve in the territorial legislature. The CDC administered a survey to 1,000 high school students in six different high schools in American Samoa to measure the relationship between the adoption of traditional Fa'asamoa (Samoan way) norms and customs and drug abuse. The CDC included a scale to assess the students' identification with Fa'asamoa values and culture and mastery of the Samoan language. A supplement to the survey determined the students' opportunity to use drugs. The survey results showed that students who identified with Fa'asamoa were less likely to use drugs or to have an opportunity to use drugs than were students who did not.

Table 1. American Samoa and U.S. Students Reporting Drug Use in 1997 (By Percent of Students Surveyed)
Category United States American Samoa
Marijuana use, lifetime 47.1 25.1
Marijuana use, within 30 days 26.2 13.9
Cocaine use, lifetime 8.2 6.1
Cocaine use, within 30 days 3.3 3.2
Crack/freebase use, lifetime 4.7 3.9
Steroid use 3.1 4.8
Injected drug use 2.1 2.1
Other (including methamphetamine) 17.0 6.2
Inhalant use 16.0 17.1

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Adolescent and School Health, Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance--United States, 1997.

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