WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) – The President of the Navajo Nation on Saturday signed tribal legislation banning smoking in many enclosed and indoor areas on the reservation, including tribal casinos.
The ban “is a monumental achievement and a bold step in the right direction to promote healthy living among our Navajo people,” Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said in a statement. “It is a fundamental right to protect the right of our Navajo people to breathe clean air. “
Tribal lawmakers approved the bill in October that bans the use of cigarettes, chewing tobacco, e-cigarettes, and other commercial products in public buildings and workspaces, including a buffer zone of 7 , 6 meters outside.
The ban will not apply to ceremonial smoking or in people’s homes unless they are used as daycares, adult care centers or business offices.
Nez had until Sunday evening to act on the legislation.
The enactment of the ban followed 13 years of work by a coalition to educate the public about the dangers of secondhand smoke.
Advocates saw an opportunity during the coronavirus pandemic to renew the push when masks are needed and questions remain about the long-term effects of the virus.
Comments submitted to the Navajo Nation Council on the measure overwhelmingly supported it. A few cited the potential for lost revenue for the tribal gaming company that tried unsuccessfully to obtain an exemption from the ban.
Smoking is banned at the tribe’s four casinos – three in New Mexico and one east of Flagstaff – under COVID-19 safety measures, but it won’t be permanent unless Nez approves. the bill.
The Tribal Council approved a ban on smoking and chewing tobacco in public places in 2008, but then President Joe Shirley Jr. vetoed it, in part because he was concerned about the gaming revenue. A derogation effort didn’t get the votes it needed.
Shirley’s successor Ben Shelly also vetoed legislation that would have banned smoking in public places but not in the tribe’s casinos until their loans were paid off. He issued an ordinance banning smoking in the executive offices he oversaw, but it did not apply to the entire Navajo Nation, which includes parts of Arizona, New Mexico and from Utah.