By Stacy Thacker, University of Montana
A recent study shows that Native Americans in New Mexico are smoking more than any other race in the state. Being a New Mexican and Native American I found this shocking!
According to the Farmington (N.M) Daily Times, nearly a quarter of people who live on tribal land in New Mexico smoke. This rise in smoking has occurred only recently, in previous years the rate of Native smokers was lower than other ethnic groups.
The smoking rate of white people has dropped and sits at about 15.8 percent according to the Times article. The discrepancies may be due to age and to state and tribal laws on tobacco.
The state provides tobacco education programs and enforces workplace smoking laws. In particular, the Navajo Nation, doesn't do either of these.
In August, according to the Navajo Times, tribal president Ben Shelly vetoed a Navajo Nation Smoking Regulation Act because the proposed law, which prohibited non-ceremonial tobacco use in all public places, made an exemption in the tribe’s casinos.
Under a new initiative, that Shelly is said to be preparing, the smoking ban will include all public buildings, including casinos.
The revenue made off of taxes from cigarettes, funds many of the health facilities including cancer treatment centers and tobacco awareness programs. Last year New Mexico received $38.6 million from a big tobacco company according to the Daily Times.
That's a lot of money the state is making off of tobacco users to educate the people about the risks of smoking.
In either case New Mexico’s Indian land apparently has the highest number of smokers in the nation. That needs to drop because the only thing New Mexico needs to be known for is its chili!
Stacy Thacker (Navajo) is from Navajo, N.M.