Sealaska is the first Native Corporation in Southeast to adopt a tobacco-free campus policy
JUNEAU — This year, Sealaska Corporation headquarters officially became a tobacco-free campus and is the first Alaska Native Corporation in the State of Alaska to implement such a policy. SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) commends Sealaska for protecting their employees, shareholders, tenants, and visitors from secondhand smoke and for taking affirmative steps to change tobacco use norms among Alaska Native people for generations to come.
The new policy will prohibit the use of all tobacco products including cigarettes, cigars, pipes, electronic cigarettes or vaping devices, and smokeless tobacco products both inside and outside the Sealaska Plaza building as well as parking areas, including private vehicles parked on Sealaska property.
The tobacco-free policy ensures a safer and healthier working environment for everyone at Sealaska Plaza. Such policies are important to Sealaska and SEARHC because of the high prevalence of tobacco use among Alaska Native populations and are helpful to those who are trying to quit. With tobacco use more than double that of non-Natives, Alaska Natives suffer more tobacco-related diseases such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death in Alaska.
Across the state, Tribes and Tribal organizations are leading the way to address the burden of tobacco use. Nearly all federally recognized Tribes in Southeast Alaska have adopted a smoke- or tobacco-free resolution in recent years. “Sealaska’s decision reflects the momentum in Southeast toward a new narrative where Alaska Native people live free from tobacco addiction. Workplace policies are an essential part of long-term solutions to changing norms, so youth never start,” said SEARHC Tobacco Program Manager, Emily Davis.
Talks of a tobacco-free policy began organically at the 2016 Sealaska Holiday Fair after several Sealaska employees connected with the SEARHC Tobacco Program and expressed concern about secondhand smoke in the Plaza’s entryways. Sealaska Facilities Manager, William Andrews, met with SEARHC Tobacco Program staff to discuss policy options and resources.
“This started a year-long process of learning, sharing, discussing strategy and requesting input from staff, tenants, and vendors. We heard from smokers and nonsmokers, addressed concerns and invested the time to explore the program,” said Andrews. Sealaska also conducted an internal survey of with tenants and employees and learned that 85% of Plaza occupants were supportive of a tobacco-free policy.
Mr. Andrews continued, “It was clear the tobacco-free campus program also aligned with Sealaska’s core values.” The core values include using strength and leadership to promote healthy families, communities and a healthy environment.
The board unanimously approved the tobacco-free campus policy in May of 2018. Sealaska began planning for the implementation by communicating with tenants and employees about the new policy. Subsequently, they removed cigarette butt receptacles and posted signage to make visitors aware that the campus is tobacco-free. Support for the policy is an integral part of its success, and Sealaska is extremely appreciative of the positivity surrounding this new initiative.
Another component to this effort is Sealaska’s commitment to supporting tenants, employees, and visitors in quitting tobacco by promoting the Alaska Tobacco Quit Line, which provides free cessation counseling and nicotine replacement therapies for all Alaska adults. Individuals can call the Quit Line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visit Alaskaquitline.com. SEARHC also provides in-person counseling and group support programs which are accessible by referral through a SEARHC provider.
For more information or assistance with tobacco-free and smoke-free policies, individuals or organizations may contact the SEARHC Tobacco Program at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Partnership for a Tobacco Free Southeast Facebook Page.