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Friday, 22 February 2019 02:00 am

Why Maori must turn away from smoking – and how they will do it

MASON Cameron says his last smoke made him want to throw up.

The 20-year-old Greytown builder had smoked for seven years because “everybody else did it”.

Mr Cameron, of Ngati Ruanui, is just one of many young Maori who have taken up the habit, but one of the few who have managed to kick it.

Research by The Quit Group in 2008 found 46% of Maori were smokers, compared with 21% of non-Maori.

Mr Cameron has a keen interest in sport, and says this is one of the main reasons he gave up.

The hole the cigarettes were burning in his pocket was also a factor and his health was a concern.

He says for the first two weeks, it was hard to give up as a lot of his friends and family smoke.

The Health Ministry’s deputy director-general for Maori health, Teresa Wall, says there is no genetic or biological reason that Maori are more vulnerable to smoking.

“Smoking is socially determined,” she says. “People who are poor and marginalised are more likely to smoke. It is present in their community so [they are] more likely to be exposed to others who smoke in their day to day interaction.”

Te Rarawa and Te Aupouri descendant Ms Wall says tobacco companies are more likely to target that population group.

“People are less likely to have resources to [afford] other stress-relieving activities, [and] have less access to resources to maintain their ability to quit and remain quit.”

The scale of Maori smoking has become a political issue in recent weeks.

Last month, the Maori Affairs Select Committee released its Inquiry into the tobacco industry in Aotearoa and the consequences of tobacco use for Maori.

hone new mugsjhotMP Hone Harawira (right), who descends from Ngati Hau, Ngati Wai, Ngati Hine, Aupouri, Ngapuhi and Ngati Whatua, is one of the strongest campaigners on the harm smoking does to Maori.

On his website, he explains that he proposed the idea of “going after the tobacco industry from a Maori perspective”.

Now, the first step has been taken with the hard-hitting inquiry report.

He says: “If I were to leave Parliament tomorrow, I’d leave a proud and happy man. MPs have been talking about doing something like this for years but have never achieved anything.”

The committee recommends the government aim for tobacco consumption to be halved by 2015, followed by a long-term goal of making New Zealand a smoke-free nation by 2025.

The recommendations include reducing the availability of tobacco, preventing children starting, and offering more support services.

The inquiry recommends the government include Maori in all tobacco-control planning and policy development.

It’s not known what the Government’s response will be. A spokesperson for associate health minister Tariana Turiana did not reply to NewsWire’s questions, but the New Zealand Herald has reported that a response can be expected earlier than the recommended three-month time frame.

Shane mugshotA consultant at charitable trust Te Reo Marama, which advocates tobacco resistance for Maori, Shane Bradbrook says in the 1930s-50s smoking was almost seen as an “equaliser” for Maori, and a relatively cheap way to look like they were part of the Western world.

Mr Bradbrook (left), who descends from Ngai Tamanuhiri, Rongowhakaata and Ngati Kahungungu and is a former director of Te Reo Marama, says this has been embedded from one generation to the next. Now smoking is seen as normal within the Maori community.

He says to prevent smoking, “we need to get rid of the tobacco industry”.

“That’s always been my aim and the aim of our organisation…to get rid of the industry. You create an environment that is hostile to them selling their product in our community.”

Mr Bradbrook says that removing tobacco from the Maori community was the ultimate driver that led to the Maori Affairs Select Committee inquiry and its report.

“[We] need to challenge the government to make sure that the supportive health promotion programmes that there are, [are] Maori specific quit programmes that assist our people to quit.”

He says it is up to Maori to get smoking out of the community, and Maori need to change their cultural behaviours. Marae are a good place to start.

A marae might be auahi kore (smoke free), and that just means smokers are not allowed to smoke there or in certain areas.

He says this is fine – except it doesn’t change the smokers’ behaviour culturally.

If a marae is tupeka kore (tobacco free) that means a smoker would not be allowed to bring tobacco onto the premises at all.

As mentioned in the inquiry, iwi would be allowed to define tikanga (custom) that would stop the use of tobacco in places of importance such as marae, maunga (mountain) and awa (river).

This could also be extended to significant Maori events, and many would like to see the removal of tobacco from the community.

As Mr Bradbrook says: “Now that doesn’t need an act in Parliament, it needs a leadership in Maoridom and that is very, very different, because that is us telling our people.”

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