Navajo Nation Council Votes To Ban Public Smoking on Reservation
The Navajo Nation Council on Friday voted 42-27 to ban smoking and chewing tobacco in public places on the reservation, the AP/Arizona Daily Star reports. The ban does not include tobacco used in ceremonies on the reservation, located on portions of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.
The tribe's Division of Health would oversee compliance with the ban and issue fines of $100 for the first violation, $200 for the second and $500 for the third. Increasing hours of community service also would be an option for violators of the ban.
Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley has 10 days to sign or veto the legislation. Thomas Walker, sponsor of the tobacco ban legislation, said that Shirley has not made a direct commitment to sign it, though two years ago Shirley made a tobacco-free proclamation of his own.
Walker added, "I think the council made a wise decision that puts the health and well-being of the people first." Patricia Nez Henderson, vice president of the Blackhill Center for American Indian Health, said that the ban could help discourage young tribal members from starting to smoke as well as help others who want to stop smoking and protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke.
The Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise opposes the tobacco ban, saying that it could put the tribe's first casino at a disadvantage because competitors still would permit smoking. The casino is expected to open later this year (Major Holmes, AP/Arizona Daily Star, 7/28).
NPR's "Morning Edition" on Monday reported on the ban (Herz, "Morning Edition," NPR, 7/28).