Navajo casinos exempt under commercial tobacco ban

By Felecia Fonseca
Window Rock, Arizona (AP) July 2011

Navajo Nation lawmakers have voted to prohibit smoking in public places on the vast reservation with an exemption for tribal casinos.

But Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly has said the measure doesn’t go far enough to protect the health of tribal members.

The Tribal Council voted 14-5 in favor of the measure during its summer session in Window Rock.

Under the bill, tribal lawmakers can reconsider the casino exemption once gaming officials pay off their financing debts.

The bill now heads to Shelly for his consideration.

Lawmakers heavily debated the measure. Some say a smoking ban infringes on personal rights and would inhibit gaming revenue.

Critics have said no one should be exposed involuntarily to second-hand smoke and that any exemption sends the wrong message to Navajo youth.