Its sucking the life out of us

Fourteen New Zealanders, including two Maori, will die today.

The same number will die tomorrow and the day after that and every other day . all year round.

They won’t die in road accidents. They won’t die of old age. They won’t die as a result of suicide, drowning or an adventure tourism accident.

They will die because they continue to smoke.

The Cancer Society’s Chief Executive, Dalton Kelly, says active smoking is directly linked to the premature deaths of 5,000 New Zealanders including over 600 Māori, every year.

“We can’t ignore the fact that current smoking rates are disproportionately high among Maori. Taking action to reduce smoking among Maori communities, in particular, should be a major health priority.”

On Wednesday 21 April, 2010, the Cancer Society will be making an oral submission to the Maori Affairs Select Committee Inquiry into the tobacco industry in Aotearoa and the consequences of tobacco use for Maori.

In their submission the Society has proposed some solutions to reduce the smoking rate, including an increase in tobacco taxes and banning point-of-sale tobacco retail displays. Both these solutions are very likely to have a notable impact in reducing Maori smoking rates.

Mr Kelly also argues that the government is letting Maori smokers down saying Maori-specific cessation services receive about $8 million from the $40 million tobacco control budget but Maori smokers contribute over $250 million per year in tobacco tax.

“We think a bigger slice of the smoking tax-take should be used to wean Maori smokers off a product that is killing them at alarming rates,” he adds.

Mr Kelly says the Society supports wholeheartedly comments by Tariana Turia when she questions why we continue to allow tobacco to be sold.

“Stop allowing it on the shelf,” she said, “and raise taxes.”

“Hear, hear,” says the Cancer Society. “Those actions, more than anything, will help us achieve our goal which is to reduce the incidence and impact of cancer in New Zealand.