November 8, 2021
Navajo Nation is Saving Countless Lives By Protecting Its People From Secondhand Smoke
Berkeley, CA– After Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez this weekend signed legislation to make casinos and other public spaces completely smokefree, Cynthia Hallett, President and CEO of Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, issued the following statement:
“Navajo Nation is saving countless lives thanks to President Nez and the Navajo Nation Council and their leadership to protect its people from the well-established dangers of secondhand smoke. They did the right thing despite efforts by opponents to exempt casinos from this new law. We also applaud the Navajo people and public health experts who have been working for years to get this legislation across the finish line.
“This new law creates a safer gaming environment for guests and protects frontline casino workers who have often been forced to choose between their own health and their paycheck. Tribes are setting the example for going smokefree at gaming properties; we urge commercial operators and elected officials to take similar action to protect workers and guests.”
In a statement issued by Navajo Nation, President Nez said, “The Air is Life Act is a monumental achievement and bold step in the right direction to promote healthy living among our Navajo people. Secondhand smoke can cause health issues among nonsmokers, such as children and elders. Public health professionals have concluded that the only way to protect nonsmokers and vulnerable populations from secondhand smoke is to require smoke-free workplaces and public places. It is a fundamental right to protect our Navajo people’s right to breathe clean air.”
On October 19, the Navajo Nation Council voted decisively — 20-3 — to make casinos and other public spaces completely smokefree by passing the “Nilch’ éí Bee Ííná – Air is Life Act 2021.”
Earlier this year, the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise casinos reopened with COVID-19 safety protocols in place including smokefree indoor policies. While these temporary measures were welcomed by advocates, the decision to permanently go smokefree in the four tribal casinos managed by the Navajo Nation as well as in other public spaces is a major milestone.
More and more casinos nationwide are going smokefree, including Park MGM on the Las Vegas strip. At least 160 sovereign Tribal gaming venues have implemented 100% smokefree policies during COVID-19, nearly half of all states require commercial casinos to be smokefree indoors, and nearly 1,100 gaming properties do not permit smoking indoors. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in March that smokefreee casino policies implemented over the last year have been a “silver lining” of the pandemic.
ABOUT AMERICANS FOR NONSMOKERS’ RIGHTS
Americans for Nonsmoker’s Rights (ANR) is a member-supported, non-profit advocacy group that has been working for 45 years, since 1976, to protect everyone’s right to breathe nontoxic air in workplaces and public places, from offices and airplanes to restaurants, bars, and casinos. ANR has continuously shined a light on the tobacco industry’s interference with sound and life-saving public health measures and successfully protected 61% of the population with local or statewide smokefree workplace, restaurant, and bar laws. ANR aims to close gaps in smokefree protections for workers in all workplaces, including bars, music venues, casinos, and hotels. For more information, please visit https://no-smoke.org/ and https://smokefreecasinos.org/.