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Navajo President Weighs Ban On Public Smoking

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Navajo President Weighs Ban On Public Smoking

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Navajo President Weighs Ban On Public Smoking

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And here's something else that may be cool. There could be a new ban on smoking, this time in public areas in the country's largest Indian reservation. From member station KNAU in Flagstaff, Arizona, Mark Herz has more.

MARK HERZ: The Navajo Nation Council has approved a ban on cigarettes and chewing tobacco in public places across its vast reservation in Arizona, Utah and New Mexico. The ban would include outdoor events such as fairs and rodeos, but would exempt tobacco used for traditional or religious purposes.

While Navajo Nation health officials support the ban, the tribe's gaming czar is worried it will cut into profits at their first casino, set to open later this year. Bronson Peshlakai, spokesman for the council, said the tribe had resisted gaming for about 10 years. He says casinos can typically be smoky, and that was part of the impetus to ban smoking now.

Mr. BRONSON PESHLAKAI (Spokesman, Navajo Nation): We're very new to the gaming industry, and we think this is going to send a statement out to the other new nations, as well as the United States in general, that we're taking care of the health of our people.

HERZ: Arizona enacted a smoking ban last year that specifically exempted Indian casinos. Navajo Nation president Joe Shirley Junior should have the ban on his desk today. He will have 10 days to either veto it or sign it into law.

For NPR News, I'm Mark Herz in Flagstaff, Arizona.

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