6 Sep 2011

Anti-smoking campaign targets rural teenage girls

4:31 pm on 6 September 2011

A Whanganui health worker is targeting parents in her bid to reduce smoking among rural teenage Maori girls.

Action on Smoking and Health, or ASH, conducted a national survey last year which found that while smoking among 14- and 15-year-olds has dropped, it wanted more to kick the habit.

The 2010 national data also reported that one in five Maori girls smoked daily compared with one in 20 Pakeha girls, but in Whanganui the numbers were double that compared to national figures, particularly in the rural parts of the region.

Julie Tolladay-Poulton is Whanganui District Health Board's smoke-free co-ordinator and says smoking has become so normal in whanau that older family members often buy cigarettes for the younger ones.

Ms Tolladay-Poulton says for anti-smoking campaigns to be effective, the message also needs to get through to the adults.

She says a questionnaire at Turakina Maori Girls' College in Marton revealed most students get their smokes through their parents, including older siblings and aunties and uncles.

Julie Tolladay-Poulton says parents often want to show affection or reward their children by buying them cigarettes.

She says her campaign will have a particular focus on Taihape, as local research has revealed 75% of rangatahi, or young Maori, smoke tobacco.