More effort needed to support Māori communities

By D'Angelo Martin

Smoking is still the leading cause of preventable deaths in New Zealand and remains an underlying health issue for Māori.  Today marks World Smokefree Day, with 490,000 New Zealands still smoking daily the question is in 2025 will the country become smokefree?

Reducing the supply of tobacco being sold is crucial to New Zealand becoming a more Smokefree country.

"It is too easy to buy tobacco, it is not a normal product but it is treated like anything else," says the Cancer Society's Shayne Nahu.

"Where we need to get to is our small number of R18 stores because remember this product kills, this is the leading cause of death." 

While Māori are still leading the stats when it comes to smoking, Nahu says more effort is needed to support these communities.

"The rates speak for themselves, so Māori smoking rates are well above those of the normal general population. Generally, Māori are around 31 to 32 percent and Māori wāhine around 36 percent.

"There's no doubt that we have to do extra, and we got to target and make sure we are doing additional to support Māori and Pacific and those low-income groups to achieve the same smoking rates as everyone else."

During this month, Hāpai Te Hauora engaged with communities who were mostly affected by smoking, the feedback that they received was a step in the right direction.

"I really commend our iwi and hapū who stood up and actually mobilised to support their communities. And I think if we can frame it in the same way for achieving a Smokefree Aotearoa, letting our hapū, our iwi, our community leaders and our whānau decide that for themselves and make that change. It is the government's responsibility to resource that," says Hāpai Te Hauora's Selah Hart.

Is Smokefree 2025 still achievable? Both Nahu and Hart say yes it is, but a more stable plan of attack is needed.

"We've been promised an action plan for a number of years and for a range of reasons it hasn't come through from the government. The sectors developed one and put that out called the ASAP plan but actually you know it would be great to get a government-mandated plan to get there," says Nahu.

Hart says, "Our health sector is doing as best as they possibly can, but I think if we're actually going to get real significant change we have to enable our communities to lead that and we come alongside and support that for themselves."

"But the other thing is we shouldn't stop striving for 2025, if we don't get 2025 we need to make sure we get there as soon as possible," says Nahu.

"It would be really good to see some change, change on a systematic level, change that doesn't necessarily put the ownership on the individual or the whānau but actually looking at the environment and the system that enabled this addiction to continue," says Hart.