On June 28, 2022, the Public Health Law Center held a reception at the Ace Hotel in New Orleans, Louisiana, during the National Conference on Tobacco or Health (NCTOH). During the event, Mike Freiberg and Colin Welker presented the 2022 Game Changer Award to the Navajo Nation Air is Life coalition as well as the American Nonsmoker’s Rights Foundation on their achievement in passing a significant comprehensive commercial tobacco policy in Indian Country.
On November 6, 2021, the Navajo Nation Niłch’í Éí Bee ĺíńá – Air is Life Act was signed into law. At the forefront of this legislation was the Air is Life Coalition, led by Dr. Patricia Nez Henderson, and coalition members Herschel Clark and Sierra Wilcox. The law prohibits the use of all commercial tobacco products in workplaces and public places in the Navajo Nation. The historic policy promotes Navajo fundamental traditional views on health and wellness as it protects Diné, especially the elders, children, and the unborn, from the dangers of commercial tobacco products, while recognizing and respecting cultural practices. A steadfast ally in this policy campaign was the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation (ANRF). Cynthia Hallett, Char Day, and Clinton Isham from ANRF elevated the voices of the Navajo Nation and persevered to ensure both the community and workers in Navajo Nation are protected from the dangers of commercial tobacco.
The Public Health Law Center presents the Game Changer award to champions of public health whose individual leadership, in the face of great obstacles, is changing the way America thinks about an important issue of public health. Dr. Philip Gardiner, Delmonte Jefferson, Carol McGruder, and Dr. Valerie Yerger of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council received the inaugural Game Changer Award at NCTOH in 2019 for their work leading the fight against menthol tobacco products.
Air is Life Health Coalition: https://www.navajoairislife.com/
American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation: https://no-smoke.org/
By Colin Welker, Policy Analyst
July 19, 2022