Osage Nation Reinforces Stance Against Commercial Tobacco: Tobacco Free Policy adopted in 2008 revisited and Osage Nation Earns State Recognition
March 08, 2013

By Geneva HorseChief-Hamilton, CX Coordinator

Pawhuska, Okla. Feb. 28, 2013:  More than four years after the original policy went into effect, the Osage Nation has signed an almost identical policy against commercial tobacco use on governmental properties.  

“There was a failure to properly implement the policy in 2008 and the Nation is emphasizing healthy living at this time,” said Gail Boe, Osage Nation Communities of Excellence Program Director, “it was the right time to review the policy and strengthen any existing weaknesses.”

The policy purpose states, “…all Osage Nation governmental properties and/ or leased facilities shall be tobacco free. Use of tobacco products is prohibited in or on Osage Nation owned or leased property, inside and outside campus buildings, parking lots, personal vehicles parked in Osage Nation owned parking lots, (federal government)vehicles and Osage Nation owned vehicles.”

LaVina Clark, Osage Nation Employee, said the policy needed to be enforced and she had noticed several employees ignoring the policy to the point where the secondhand smoke was making it into the building where she works.

“There’s one lady who will smoke right outside the door and put her cigarette out outside then come in and exhale all her smoke inside,” Clark said, “…our office needs another sign and I’m just wondering how far away can they smoke from buildings.”

The driving force behind the initiative is to reduce and eventually eliminate the amount of secondhand smoke visitors and employees are exposed to. Secondhand smoke is the smoke emitted from the burning end of a cigarette, pipe, or cigar, combined with the smoke exhaled by smokers. It contains more than 4,000 substances, more than 40 of which are known to cause cancer and the others are strong irritants. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, secondhand smoke will send 700,000 children to the doctor this year.

“The Osage Nation cares about the health and well-being of anyone who steps foot onto Osage Nation property,” said Boe. “We hope this sends a positive message about the importance of creating an atmosphere of practicing preventative health.”

The example set by the Osage Nation has not gone unnoticed. The day before the policy was signed the City of Pawhuska, Indian Camp Elementary and the Osage Nation became Oklahoma Certified Healthy Programs due to the ongoing efforts by the Nation’s Communities of Excellence Program to make Osage County tobacco free.  All three received the highest certification of excellence. To qualify for the Oklahoma State Department of Health certification entities must, “…promote wellness, encourage the adoption of healthy behaviors,” and have a tobacco free policy among several other factors.

Businesses that provide wellness opportunities see a return on their investment, “…decreased insurance premiums, fewer sick days, and increased productivity and morale,” according to the Oklahoma Turning Point Council, a non-profit consortium of state organizations promoting a healthier Oklahoma since 1997. The council manages Oklahoma Certified Healthy Programs.

On the other end of the spectrum, smokers are a liability to businesses and the state. Smokers have 50 percent more missed workdays than non-smokers and account for $1.556 billion in lost productivity from premature death annually in the state of Oklahoma due to smoking related illnesses, according to the CDC.

Also included in the policy is the Pawhuska Indian Health service clinic situated in property owned by the Nation. Not included are the Osage Casinos. It is up to the casinos to write and enforce their own tobacco free policies.

For more information about secondhand smoke and quitting smoking, contact the Osage Nation Communities of Excellence at 918/287-5267, or the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline 1-800-QUIT-NOW, or visit www.osagetribe.com/excellence, www.keepitsacred.org, www.ok.gov/stopswithme, www.breatheasyok.com.