Background: Comprehensive smoke-free laws are effective at protecting non-smokers and reducing tobacco use, yet they are not widely adopted by tribal governments.
Methods: A series of smoke-free policy initiatives on the Navajo Nation, beginning in 2008, were reviewed to identify key issues, successes and setbacks.
Results: It has been essential that proposed policies acknowledge the Navajo people’s spiritual use of nát’oh, a sacred plant used for gift-giving, medicinal purposes and traditional ceremonies, while simultaneously discouraging a secular use of commercial tobacco. Concern that smoke-free policies economically harm tribal casinos has been a major barrier to broad implementation of comprehensive smoke-free laws in Navajo Nation.
Conclusions: It is necessary for tobacco control researchers and advocates to build relationships with tribal leaders and casino management in order to develop the business case that will take comprehensive smoke-free policies to scale throughout tribal lands.