Tribes Add Momentum to Tobacco-Free Movement
ANCHORAGE, ALASKA –Alaska Native tribes are taking action to eliminate tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke in the workplace. At the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) convention in 2011 a resolution in support of statewide smokefree workplaces was unanimously passed. Since that time tribes have brought forward resolutions of their own. Seven tribes passed tobacco-free workplace resolutions, banning all tobacco products on workplace grounds, and three tribes passed resolutions in support of a statewide smokefree workplace law.
Many tribes have instituted tobacco-free and smokefree workplace policies over the years, but today there is a growing movement to tackle the issue of tobacco use at a local level. “Passing a tobacco-free resolution is just another step to keeping our tribe and youth healthy,” said Josie Dayton of the Koyukuk Tribal Council.
Tribal entities from as far north as Point Hope and as far south as Hydaburg have joined the movement to make their local tribes tobacco-free. The Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium’s (SEARHC) Tobacco Department and the statewide Leadership for Eliminating Alaskan Disparities workgroup have been instrumental in working with partners to build momentum for tobacco-free tribes.
SEARHC Tobacco Program Manager, Andrea Thomas said, “Passing resolutions such as these protect people from secondhand smoke, reduce tobacco use, and model healthy behavior.”
Tobacco use disproportionately affects the health of Alaska Native people, leading to higher rates of preventable illnesses and premature death. Alaska Native adults are almost twice as likely to smoke as non-Native adults (41 percent versus 21 percent). Additionally, Alaska Native youth are nearly twice as likely to be current smokers than non-Native youth (26 percent versus 14 percent).
The Alaska Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA) partners with SEARHC and the State of Alaska Tobacco Prevention and Control Program to promote tobacco-free environments.