February 4, 2022
Berkeley, CA — The Air is Life Coalition is celebrating the beginning of smokefree Navajo Nation casinos as the new law takes effect this Saturday.
“After years of working towards this day, we celebrate this victory for the health of Navajo people,” said Dr. Patricia Nez Henderson, a member of the Air is Life Coalition. “We are grateful to President Nez and the Navajo Nation Council for their leadership to protect workers and guests from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke.”
“The implementation of smokefree casinos is a significant milestone that continues a trend of Tribal casinos adopting smokefree indoor air policies,” said Cynthia Hallett, President and CEO of Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights. “We congratulate the leadership of the sovereign Navajo Nation for taking this step toward healthy outcomes for all Navajo people, especially those who work in casinos.”
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez signed legislation to make casinos and other public spaces completely smokefree on November 6, 2021. This following a decisive October 19 vote by the Navajo Nation Council — 20-3 — to make casinos and other public spaces completely smokefree by passing the “Nilch’ éí Bee Ííná – Air is LifeAct 2021.”
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.”
In 2021, 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/.