Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe outlaws smoking in public places

Youth from the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe present the dangers of second-hand smoke. Photo from Facebook

The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe in South Dakota has gone smoke-free.

The Smoke-Free Air Act outlaws smoking inside all public places, including restaurants, bars and tribal offices. The new law went into effect on May 1.

“We are so proud of our tribal council leaders for taking action to protect their people from second-hand smoke,” said Rae O’Leary, a nurse and respiratory therapist who was part of the Canli Coalition that pushed for the ban.

Canli is the Lakota word for tobacco, the traditional form of which is not affected by the law. The coalition instead focused on addressing the high rate of smoking on the reservation -- in a recent survey, 53 percent said they used cigarettes -- and the harmful effects of smoking on others, particularly children.

A float during the tribe's Labor Day parade documented the high rate of smoking on the reservation. Photo from Facebook

"The overwhelming support for smoke-free air from tribal members of all ages and testimonies from youth leaders seemed to make a big impression on council representatives,” said Wayne Ducheneaux, the chairman of the tribe's health committee. “I believe protecting our people from second-hand smoke in indoor public places will be a much needed, positive change for our tribe."

The tribe is also taking a proactive approach to an issue that's facing communities across the nation. The new law bans electronic cigarettes inside public places -- a federal study showed that middle and high school students are experimenting with them at increasingly higher rates.

"The Smoke-Free Air ordinance will save lives now and seven generations from now," O'Leary said.

In addition to banning smoking indoors in public places, smoking is not allowed within 50 feet of public buildings. Similar restrictions have been adopted in other jurisdictions.

Individuals who violate the law can be punished with a $50 fine. Businesses that allow smoking face a $100 fine.

“It has been great to work with CRST tribal council members with such visionary leadership to protect people from second-hand smoke," Chairman Harold Frazier said. "The benefits of living on a smoke-free reservation will be both immediate and long-lasting.”

According to the Canli Coalition, the tribe is the first in South Dakota to implement a smoking ban.

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