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The importance of having a Commercial Tobacco-free Policy on Navajo Nation

  • It decolonizes tobacco by reclaiming Dził Nát’oh and denormalizing commercial tobacco use.

  •  It creates a healthy work environment for employees working in the Navajo Nation, especially for Navajo casino workers.

  • It increases smoking cessation for Navajo smokers who are wanting to quit commercial tobacco use.

  • It benefits the Indian Health Service and 638 hospitals/clinics that are historically underfunded. The law will reduce secondhand smoke exposure disease mortality and morbidity, which will result in lower healthcare costs for the Navajo Nation.

Difference between ceremonial vs commercial tobacco
  • Ceremonial tobacco is grown, and harvested, are prepared for specific ceremonial and cultural purposes, with the intent and spirit to promote wellness for individuals and communities. ​

  • In contrast to ceremonial tobacco, commercial tobacco has been colonized through its modification, mass production, and distribution for recreational use or 'misuse' and often seeks to return a financial profit. 

  • Today, many Indigenous tribes adopted commercial tobacco for cultural and ceremonial use not knowing it contains harmful chemicals that are dangerous to their health. 

The Dangers of Secondhand Smoke Exposure 

  • Commercial tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure kill nearly 500,000 Americans every year.
  • There are no safe levels of commercial tobacco secondhand smoke exposure. 
  • Commercial tobacco secondhand smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals. Hundreds are toxic and about 70 are cancer-causing. 
  • Secondhand smoke causes lung cancer in adults who have never smoked.
  • Nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke are inhaling many of the same cancer-causing substances as smokers.

Commercial Tobacco Use Among Navajo People

Navajo Adult Cigarette Smoking

  • 20% of Navajo adults are smokers

2017 Navajo Youth Risk Behavior Survey – High School Student
  • 41% of students have tried cigarette smoking in their lifetime 
  • 14% of students tried cigarette smoking before the age of 13
  • 40% of students have tried an electronic vaping product in the past 30 days
  • 24% of students have used smokeless tobacco in the past 30 days
  • 54% of students tried to quit using all tobacco product
* Electronic cigarette (e-cig) use among Navajo youth is two times compared to the US rate at 19.6%.
* Smokeless tobacco use among Navajo high school students (24%) is significantly higher compared to the US rate at 3.1%

These statistics among our Navajo youth are alarming when you think about the serious long-term health impact of commercial tobacco use. If we do not do anything NOW, we will be dealing with high rates of lung cancer, heart diseases, such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), hypertension, blood clots, high cholesterol, stroke diabetes, etc. caused by these addictive products.



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