Clearing the Air of Navajo’s Smoke Free Workplace, Traditional Tobacco OK

Navajo Nation Release
8/19/14

The right to fresh air in the workplace.

Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly signed Executive Order No. 12-2014 into law on August 14 and said it was to protect the health of tribal employees.

“The use of commercial tobacco is prohibited at all interior spaces operated by the Executive Branch,” Shelly said. “This includes a distance of 25 feet from all entrances, windows and ventilation systems.”

Initially, Executive Order 02-2011 was implemented on April 26, 2011. The new order clarifies and supersedes the previous document.

An exception to the new law is the use of mountain tobacco, or Hozhooji Dzil Natoh.

Pete Nez was instrumental in creation of the order and was elated that it was signed into law.

“We are here to protect the people and to talk about the steps that are needed in order to move our people toward living a more healthier life,” Nez said.

He lauded the efforts of the Blacks Hills Center for American Indian Health, which he said has been fighting colon and lung cancer, tuberculosis, obesity and diabetes. They also have a similar policy for a smoke free workplace.

Thomas Walker, president of the Navajo Health Coalition, said the authorities granted to President Shelly are the shield and protection for the Navajo people.

“Our tongue, or words, can protect the people. Mr. President, the use of your executive order directive, with the weight of the policymaking authority, will be used to shield the people employed by the Navajo Nation in their workplaces,” Walker said.

He said the Team Navajo Coalition also deserved recognition for their work and advocacy.

Vice President Rex Lee Jim praised the coalition for being persistent in revising the order to not only allow provisions for the health of Navajo employees, but to also give proper consideration for the traditional tobacco used in Navajo ceremonies.

“It is important that we do what we need to do to ensure our people have access to quality workplaces and ensure that they are not exposed to secondhand smoke,” Jim said. “Thank you for working with us and let’s continue to work together.”

Title 2 of the Navajo Nation Code, specifically Subsection 1005 (A) provides that, “The President of the Navajo Nation serves at the Chief Executive Officer for the Executive Branch of the Navajo Nation government with full authority to conduct, supervise, and coordinate personnel and program matters.”

This includes the enumerated power of issuing an executive order for the purpose of interpreting, implementing or giving administrative effect to statutes of the Navajo Nation.

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