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Navajo Nation imposes ban on indoor smoking

Patrons of the Navajo Nation’s casinos will have to light up outside following a ban on indoor smoking.

SmokingBanNavajo

The US’ largest Native American reservation has brought legislation into effect barring customers from smoking indoors at many locations throughout the Tribe’s more than 17-million-acre territory.

Smoking had already been prohibited at the Tribe’s four casinos — three in New Mexico and one east of Flagstaff — under Covid safety measures, but the ban wasn’t legally binding until Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez signed it into law on Saturday.

Native Americans have the highest smoking rate in the country, with more than one in five adults reporting regular cigarette use according to tobacco control non-profit Truth Initiative — almost double the national average. As a result, Nez called the ban a “step in the right direction to promote healthy living.”

“It is a fundamental right to protect our Navajo people’s right to breathe clean air,” he remarked in a statement.

The bill was approved by Tribal lawmakers back in October, prohibiting the use of cigarettes, chewing tobacco, e-cigarettes and other commercial products in public buildings and workspaces, with a 25-foot buffer outdoors. However, the legislation does not prohibit the use of tobacco for ceremonial purposes or in private residences.

A ban was almost introduced in 2008, but then-President Joe Shirley Jr vetoed it, with his successor, Ben Shelly, following suit. Since then, campaigners have sought to educate the public about the dangers of second-hand smoke. They saw an opportunity to capitalise on Covid while public health is at the forefront of everyone’s minds and renewed their push.

Consequently, the bill received overwhelming support, with a few citing the possibility of lost revenue for the Tribe’s gambling enterprises.


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