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Moving towards a healthier environment

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Native American Rehabilitation Association institutes a tobacco-free policy

PORTLAND, Ore. - The Native American Rehabilitation Association of the Northwest announced the adoption of a tobacco-free policy effective May 1. The policy affects all NARA NW facilities, prohibiting the use of commercial tobacco products indoors and within 25 feet of windows, doors, ramps and air intakes, except for a designated area at the residential treatment facility.

The policy allows for the use of American Indian and Native Alaskan ceremonial tobacco by providing opportunities to engage in tobacco ceremonies and educate staff and clients on the differences between traditional and non-traditional tobacco use.

American Indians and Alaska Natives have higher rates of commercial tobacco use than any other racial or ethnic group in Oregon - 38 percent, compared to 19 percent of the general population. The new tobacco-free policy is in keeping with NARA's mission to provide education and physical and mental health services to American Indians, Alaska Natives and other vulnerable people.

NARA NW leadership adopted the new policy to further enhance a healthy environment for its clients, reduce people's exposure to secondhand smoke, and send a message to the community about the dangers of commercial tobacco use. The organization has always supported and recognized the cultural connection between American Indian and Native Alaskan communities and the sacred uses of traditional tobacco.

''Commercial tobacco is an addictive and dangerous product. We can't achieve our mission of helping our clients make healthy choices for themselves and for their families without addressing tobacco use in our facilities,'' said Michael Watkins, NARA NW's COO.

''For more than 37 years, we have been dedicated to teaching people how to live without chemical dependence, including dependence on nicotine. Now, with our tobacco-free policy, we can better support our clients and their health decisions while continuing to honor the traditional and spiritual uses of traditional tobacco.''

Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death in Oregon - both for smokers and for people breathing secondhand smoke. The U.S. surgeon general recently stated that there is no risk-free level of secondhand smoke and any exposure is harmful.

The mission of NARA NW is to provide education, physical and mental health services and substance abuse treatment that is culturally appropriate to American Indians, Alaska Natives and other vulnerable people. Since 1970, NARA NW has worked to help American Indians and Alaska Native people achieve the highest level of physical, mental and spiritual well-being. For more information, call (503) 230-9875 or visit www.naranorthwest.org.