Te Ohu Rata o Aotearoa, the Māori Medical Practitioners Association (Te ORA) Media Release on the proposal to repeal the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Smoked Tobacco) Amendment Act
Tērā te auahi ka patua i Tarawera (There is the [volcanic] smoke that destroyed those at Tarawera)
Similar to the government, Te ORA (the Māori Medical Practitioners Association) has had a change of leadership with the election of a new board, chaired by Dr Kasey Tawhara (Ngāti Raukawa ki te Tonga). While Te ORA celebrates its change of guard, the recent political changes have required a thorough examination of the coalition agreements around health and the impact of these changes on Māori. The first considered response to these, on behalf of our members, condemns the new governments proposal to roll back the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Smoked Tobacco) Amendment Act.
This move will come at great cost to the health of Māori for whom smoking causes almost a quarter of all deaths. It is the single biggest risk factor for preventable disease and premature death across Aotearoa New Zealand. For instance, lung cancer is a significant leading cause of death for Māori women and is responsible for much of the seven-year life-expectancy gap of Māori women. Successive National and Labour governments have supported efforts by health workers to reduce smoking and the extent of the harm that it causes, and this has placed Aotearoa New Zealand at the vanguard of international action to end the global smoking epidemic. Our previous leadership has included the 2011 development of a ‘Smokefree 2025’ goal, the comprehensive 2021 Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 Action Plan and passage of the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Smoked Tobacco) Amendment Act in December 2022. It is fair to say that reduction of tobacco consumption has been phenomenal. However, there is still some way to go before the Smokefree Aotearoa goal of tobacco use in less than five percent of the population is achieved in the Māori community. Repealing SERPA will impact on our ability to achieve this goal and will leave future generations exposed to this very harmful substance.
In a NewsHub NATION interview two weeks ago about funding the government’s promised tax cuts, the new Finance Minister explained that “drastically reducing the number of shops that could sell tobacco products, de-nicotinizing those products and introducing a range of restriction would significantly reduce revenue to the Crown”. She did not deny that smokers would be paying for the Government’s tax cuts.
We congratulate our colleague Dr Shane Reti (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Maniapoto) on his new role as Minister of Health. He is a long-serving Māori medical practitioner who has witnessed first-hand the preventable death and disease caused by smoked tobacco products and its impact in Māori and underprivileged communities. However, we remain unapologetic in our position that undoing this legislation will impact directly upon those with least resource, with Māori (and Pasifika) paying for the tax cuts of the more fortunate.
We are concerned that this Government seems to have come out strongly against initiatives to improve Māori health and wellbeing, and the rollback of the Smokefree legislation will impact all peoples of Aotearoa.
Ko te totara wahi rua, he kai ma te ahi (The totara that is divided becomes food for the fire)
For comment please contact the Te ORA Office – (027) 960 8744