Apr 12, 2021


Maori News & Indigenous Views

Smokefree Environments (Controls and Enforcements) Amendment Bill; Third reading – Rahui Katene

5 min read

Mr Speaker, in one of the submissions presented to the Select Committee there was a statement attributed to Moana Jackson that had come from the National Maori Tobacco Control Strategy 2003-2007.

That statement read:

No greater taonga than the wellness of the people of the land and those expected to care for them had no greater obligation than to ensure its maintenance.

Directly above this statement were pictures of ten of our tupuna their beautiful, strong faces adorning cards to be used in the sale of tobacco.

There is no greater taonga than the wellness of the people and yet over the centuries, their health and life cycle have been placed at such risk through normalizing the practice of tobacco use and addiction.

Those tobacco cards of tupuna dated back over ninety years to the 1920s and 1930s.

Todays modern day tobacco displays simply perpetuate the proliferation of paraphernalia used to peddle tobacco products.

The Maori Party has raised our concerns about tobacco use as a key party policy since the earliest days of our establishment in 2004.

One of our key policy planks in our manifesto, He aha te mea nui, was to introduce measures to take tobacco out of Aotearoa. The rationale was sound.

Despite the legislative and regulatory environment the number of cigarettes and the volume of tobacco available for consumption is increasing.

And so in our Maori Party policy document, we resolved that the health of the nation must come before the profits of the tobacco giants.

Our campaign rested on many fronts.

We were to draft legislation to bring about tobacco excise increases; we were to call for an inquiry into the tobacco industry in Aotearoa and the consequences of tobacco use for Maori, we were to remove tobacco displays from public view.

And so it is an amazing feeling today, to reflect on the successes we have had in every aspect of campaign for tobacco control. If there was ever a day to question the value of a coalition agreement with Government, this would be that day.

This Government has ventured far beyond what one might have ever thought possible in this term of Government, in response to the advocacy, the expertise and the leadership of our co-leader, Tariana Turia.

Last April the Government enacted legislation to increase the tax on all tobacco products by ten percent and to equalise the duties on manufactured and roll-your-own cigarettes.

Earlier this year, they responded with a comprehensive and forward looking response to the Maori Affairs inquiry into the tobacco industry.

This Bill today, now introduces a prohibition on retail displays of tobacco products; as another key measure to reduce the prevalence of smoking in Aotearoa.

And in a watch-this-space preview in Minister Turias speech, we know that there will also soon be action taken to introduce plain packaging of tobacco products, in line with Australia.

Mr Speaker, while we are making tobacco history with this Bill this afternoon, this morning my colleague Pita Sharples was presiding at the opening of the Whare Oranga Ake another major achievement for the Maori Party.

The idea is that when the time comes for a prisoner to return to his family, his marae, his community, his whakapapa links and family bonds need to be carefully restored.

If we just throw a prisoner out of jail, many of them get into trouble again, and go back to prison, which isa waste of people.

But with the Whare Oranga Ake – there is a different wairua and tikanga, which we believe is only possible as a result of the difference achieved by the Maori Party working in a relationship with the government.

I cannot emphasize enough how important these gains are.

The legislative moves related to smoking in Aotearoa are being watched

Going back to Moana Jacksons words we are talking about No greater taonga than the wellness of the people of the land.

Of course it is not all roses and I was disappointed that National was unable to appreciate the value of the amendments I sought to introduce to enable a register to be established; for registration to be mandatory and a condition of selling tobacco.

This was a simple, pragmatic response to the issue that there is currently not a central list of tobacco retailers, and I do appreciate the support of Labour, the Greens and the Progressives in this regard.

Such a register would have been an effective way of keeping track of the growing pressure placed on the public by cunning tobacco companies seeking to market tobacco products through any means.

But putting aside the register I can only note just how important this Bill is today, in making progress towards the greater vision of ensuring Aotearoa is smokefree by 2025.

One of the important pieces of information that has enabled this legislation to proceed so smoothly, is the research from the Cancer Society of New Zealand which revealed that a large majority of New Zealanders consistently back removal of tobacco retail displays.

But to my mind, I think when I read the submission from Te Ohu Rata o Aotearoa the Maori Medical Practitioners Association of Aotearoa there was absolutely no room for doubt. This is what they said.

Future generations of New Zealand, our tamariki and our mokopuna, should be free from exposure to tobacco products.

As doctors we deal every day with the tragic human consequences of smoking related illness. We target our strongest objection, opposition and opprobrium at those who profit from the production, supply and sale of this addictive poison tobacco.

This is a very big move. Today, this House will pass into law a Bill which will remove tobacco retail displays, restrict tobacco trading names, and introduce tighter controls on sale to minors.

We know that relapse to smoking is influenced by the retail displays of tobacco products the mere sight of tobacco on display becomes a temptation for smokers trying to quit.

During the select committee stage we were also told by the Centre for Tobacco Control Research that experimental smoking among youth is influenced by the retail display of tobacco products.

Basically the ease of access and availability of tobacco encourages initiation and maintenance of smoking.

It can be so simple. We have to denormalise smoking. We have to instil pride in ourselves that we can be smokefree. Because we know, we experience, we grieve from the reality that smoking kills.

To bring us back to the fundamental reason for tobacco reform, we only need to return to our urupa and our cemeteries, to remember those loved ones who have been taken from us, too soon.

Smoking is the most significant cause of premature and preventable deaths in New Zealand. As Professor Tony Blakely has said so clearly, reducing smoking is the single most important and attainable policy action to reduce inequalities in mortality for Maori and Pacific peoples.

The Maori Party is proud today of our champion, Tariana Turia, and all the smokefree advocates too many to name who have taken this cause up so valiantly on behalf of whanau.

We are delighted to support the third reading of the Smokefree Environments (Controls and Enforcements) Amendment Bill.

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