Navajo Research Paper

Team Navajo established goals to increase community involvement in tobacco control efforts, to reduce smoking among Navajo people and to protect non-smokers from secondhand smoke, all while respecting the role of nát'oh for ceremonial purposes.A key strategy was to promote legislation to prohibit the use of commercial tobacco in all public spaces and workplaces. §204 (E).25While the 2008 legislation stated that, ‘Bona fide religious and traditional ceremonial tobacco uses are not regulated by this Act’, this was a topic of considerable discussion.

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Commercial tobacco disrespects the Navajo fundamental traditions. There are protocols and a process involved and the idea behind that now is to educate people about the traditional uses of nát'oh’.26As radio is the primary source of communication to the Navajo people, Team Navajo conducted multiple radio forums to discuss the proposed legislation.

Commercial tobacco abuses our people and harms our environment resulting in disharmony with the body and the earth. In addition, Team Navajo created and distributed booklets that highlighted studies on the null economic effect from implementation of smoke-free policies in casinos.

The 120-member coalition engaged community members, ceremonial healers, local leaders, employers and non-Navajo advocacy organisations. As trusted spokespersons, Navajo ceremonial healers provided clarification and reassurance that ceremonial tobacco use would not be prohibited.

Educational outreach to chapter houses and community organisations stressed the differences between nát'oh and commercial tobacco. It is the right and freedom of the people that every child and every elder be respected, honored and protected with a healthy physical and mental environment, free from all abuse. ‘There is big difference between commercial tobacco—cigarettes or chew—and nát'oh.

This essay explores the process and issues related to community collaborative research that involves Native Americans generally, and specifically examines the Navajo Nation’s efforts to regulate research within its jurisdiction.

Researchers need to account for both the experience of Native Americans and their own preconceptions about Native Americans when conducting research about Native Americans.

After considerable networking and revisions to the 2008 legislation—which retained the same wording protecting the traditional use of ceremonial nát'oh—the Navajo Nation Commercial Tobacco-Free Act of 2009 was assigned a tracking number (legislation number 0312-09) by the Navajo Nation Legislative Service.

Assignment of a tracking number is the first step towards introducing a bill for consideration by the Council.

In addition, the Navajo Nation is dealing with the need to create economic development opportunities for its people while facing increasing rates of smoking and no comprehensive smoke-free policy.

A review of smoke-free policy efforts in Navajo Nation over time provides an opportunity to find out how these unique factors influence smoke-free policymaking on tribal lands., concluded that there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke and that establishing smoke-free environments is the only proven way to prevent exposure.13 A 2012 systematic review of smoke-free policies concluded that there is strong evidence that smoke-free polices are effective at: reducing exposure to secondhand smoke; increasing quitting behaviours; reducing tobacco use; reducing the initiation of tobacco use and reducing tobacco-related morbidity and mortality.14 15While the public health benefits of smoke-free workplaces are well known, the gaming industry is a sector that lags in adopting comprehensive smoke-free policies.16–18 Casino workers and patrons are exposed to high levels of secondhand smoke, including carcinogens and fine particulate matter associated with cardiovascular disease (PM).18–23Air quality studies demonstrate that non-smoking areas within casinos, without physical barriers, provide no protection from secondhand smoke exposure; non-smoking areas, partially separated from smoking areas, provide minimal protection and smoke-free areas, completely separated from smoking areas by physical barriers, provide good protection.18 22 Studies show that a small portion of actively smoking casino patrons (7–12%) are responsible for the high levels of secondhand smoke found in casinos and ventilation systems are not effective at removing secondhand smoke.19 A grassroots coalition—Team Navajo—formed in 2006, after its leaders identified the lack of a comprehensive smoke-free policy as a major public health problem in Navajo Nation, because having no law: (1) fosters a social norm that commercial tobacco use is acceptable; (2) increases the likelihood that commercial tobacco use will lead to tobacco-caused diseases and (3) increases the risk of morbidity and mortality among non-smokers exposed to secondhand smoke.


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