8 Mar 2010

Maori health groups want ban on tobacco

8:30 pm on 8 March 2010

Maori health groups attending a select committee hearing in Rotorua have called for an increase in the tax on tobacco, and an eventual ban on tobacco sales.

The Maori Affairs Select Committee is holding an inquiry into the tobacco industry in this country and the consequences of smoking for Maori.

On Monday MPs heard submissions from groups providing health services to Maori living in Bay of Plenty and East Coast.

The Lakes Auahi Kore Smokefree Coalition represents a number of agencies, including the Lakes District Health Board. It says there is a need to restrict, and then eliminate, tobacco sales.

Its recommendations include increasing the tax on tobacco by at least 5% every year, removing tobacco displays from shops, and providing more programmes to help people quit smoking.

In a written submission, Tauranga GP Jethro LeRoy says smoking is the biggest cause of health disparities between Maori and non-Maori.

Dr LeRoy says that is clearly demonstrated by the amount of cardiovascular disease, lung disease and cancer that he regularly observes.

Kiri Potaka-Dewes, who heads Te Arawa's health board, says 40% of Te Arawa people over the age of 15 smoke and it is is ruining too many lives.

A number of submitters in Rotorua called for an increase of at least 5% in the tax on tobacco, as well as the provision of more programmes to help people stop smoking.

The committee will also hear submissions in Auckland and Christchurch.