• Georgina te Heuheu
Women's Affairs


In opening the National Auahi Kore hui this morning the Associate Minister for Health Mrs Georgina te Heuheu called for leadership among men particularly Maori men to be exercised in the battle against smoking.

"We need all leaders to advocate strongly against the use of nicotine and to be supportive of all programmes and efforts aimed at cutting down the smoking rates in New Zealand," Mrs te Heuheu said.

"Our leaders need to view the incidence of nicotine use among Maori especially, as war."

"While we are sending off our young men to East Timor we need to be aware that Maori are dying here right now from preventable causes," she said.

"It is a battle and a war that we must all win. It's imperative for the future longevity for our people," she said.

Mrs te Heuheu supported the leadership of Maori male MPs such as Tuku Morgan and Tuariki Delamere.

"I support Tuku Morgan's Smokefree Environments Amendment Bill that is currently before the House and would be supportive of widening the ban on smoking to other areas beyond schools and Kura Kaupapa Maori," she said.

"I am also supportive of Tuariki Delamere's comment earlier this week that more of the tobacco tax collected by government should be made available for well targetted smoking cessation programmes."

Mrs te Heuheu also expressed concern at the uptake of smoking among young girls and particularly Maori girls.

"These young girls are our future mothers. We want our future babies to be healthy and to be raised by healthy mothers," Mrs te Heuheu said.

"We need to urgently get a message through to these young woman that smoking will effect their future motherhood chances."

Mrs te Heuheu also encouraged the development of more smoking cessation programmes and particularly to make sure these work for Maori people.

Mrs te Heuheu reviewed what the Government has done in the area of the smoking as follows:

The Government has in place a comprehensive tobacco control programme that focuses on legislation, taxation, health promotion and cessation services.

The Smoke-free Environments Act introduced in 1990 banned:
smoking at work and public places as well as banning all tobacco advertising. An amendment to the Act increased the ban on tobacco sales to people under 18 years up from 16 year olds, while also increasing the enforcement of the Act to ensure retailers are not selling to minors.

Regulations were introduced in 1999 to include larger and stronger health warnings on tobacco packets. These will feature a Maori warning message "Ka mate koe I te kai hikareti" both on the front and back of the packet. We will begin to see these Health warnings appearing on cigarette packs from early next year.

The Health Sponsorship Council now undertakes a large number of sponsorships with its Smoke free brand. Many events replace previous tobacco sponsored events.

In 1996 we launched the Why Start? Mutimedia campaign targeted at 10-24 year olds particularly Maori, women and pregnant women. It consisted of 20 television commercials with messages in Maori and English.

Increasingly the focus in New Zealand is moving to smoking cessation programmes and in July this year we launched the National quitline supported by hard hitting television commercials to stop smoking.

In 1995 the tax rate on loose tobacco was increased by 37 percent equalising the tax rate per gram of tobacco content across all tobacco products. In May 1998 the excise on a pack of 20 cigarettes was increased by 50 cents + gst. A pack of 20 cigarettes now costs between $6 - $8. Since the tax increase we have noted that tobacco consumption has fallen by ten percent.

A pilot project smoking cessation programme was run for six months by the Health Sponsorship Council, the Cancer Society and Te Hotu Manawa Maori in the Bay of Plenty and Waikato regions.

The pilot has now become a nationwide freephone quitline 0800 778 778. And the service focuses on Maori including provision for counselling in Maori and the development of resources for Maori.

Six trials involving up to 2000 Maori women smokers administered by the Government's drug buying agency PHARMAC and the Health Funding Authority, are also underway. They are being developed by Maori providers and will utilise nicotine replacement therapies and counselling."

Further Smoking Statistics the Minister highlighted
* 600 Maori deaths are attributable to tobacco annually.
* Cigarette smoking accounted for 31 percent of all annual deaths.
* 78% of adult Maori cigarette-attributable deaths are between the ages of 35-70.
* If all Maori gave up smoking the average life expectancy for Maori would go up by four years.
* One in two Maori smoke.
* The 1998 survey of fourth form smoking rates show that daily smoking reduced slightly between 1997 and 1998 for Maori female students while the rates have decreased from 39 to 37 percent, they are still alarmingly high.