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Navajo Nation has banned indoor smoking in places of work, including in the tribe’s casinos, among other locations.  “It is a fundamental right to protect our Navajo people’s right to breathe clean air,” Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said in a statement. 

President Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer joined members of the 24th Navajo Nation Council and the Air is Life Coalition, on Saturday when they signed into the law the “Niłch’ Éí Bee Ííná – Air is Life Act of 2021,” which prohibits using commercial tobacco products--including cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and e-cigarettes--in enclosed and indoor areas on the Navajo Nation, and within 25 feet of any indoor area. 

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The ban does not apply to people’s homes, unless the residence is operated for child care, adult care, or health care purposes, or as home offices. Ceremonial tobacco and traditional smoke for ceremonial purposes is exempt from the ban. 

“We commend the diligent work of the Air is Life Coalition for paving the way for us to be here today,” said Chairman Daniel Tso (Littlewater, Pueblo Pintado, Torreon, Whitehorse Lake, Baca/Prewitt, Casamero Lake, Ojo Encino, Counselor) in a statement. “The perseverance of Dr. Patricia Nez-Henderson and her team deserves recognition. It is an honor to have been asked to sponsor this historic legislation. The Navajo Nation Council has spoken loudly that the health of the Navajo people is valuable and not to be gambled with.” 

The bill unanimously passed the Council in October.

“The health of our people is important to our future as the largest Sovereign Nation in the country,” said Speaker Seth Damon (Bááhaalí, Chichiltah, Manuelito, Red Rock, Rock Springs, Tséyatoh) in a statement.

“Niłch’ éí Bee Ííńá – Air is Life is not only the essence of historic health policy, but it is the foundation of our Navajo teachings. It is these teachings that created the path for this moment,” said Dr. Patricia Nez-Henderson in a statement. 

“Niłch’ éí Bee Ííńá represents the oxygen we breathe to live and exist every day,” said Delegate Nathaniel Brown (Dennehotso, Kayenta, Chííłchinbii’tó) in a statement. “We need to protect our people at all costs and this includes our hard working staff employed by the casinos. We all know the health risks from commercial tobacco, including deadly cancers. Life is sacred and this resolution sends that message across Indian Country today.” 

The Navajo Department of Health and the Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety will enforce the new ban.

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