14 Sep 2011

Smoke-free Maori boarding schools an attractive option

6:18 pm on 14 September 2011

A Maori boarding-school teacher says the success of the anti-smoking campaigns at his college is encouraging parents to send their children there.

Turakina Maori Girls' College in Marton is being applauded by the Whanganui District Health Board for reducing the number of junior students who smoke.

A national survey conducted in 2010 by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), revealed a drop among 14- and 15 year-olds, but the data also showed one in five Maori girls smoked daily compared to one in 20 Pakeha girls.

In Whanganui however, the numbers were double that, particularly in rural areas.

The deputy principal of Turakina Maori Girls' College, Kere Mihaere, says if other Maori boarding schools adopted the same smoking policies, parents might be more inclined to enrol their children.

Mr Mihaere says the health benefits for Maori as a whole, are obvious.

A questionnaire at Turakina Maori Girls' College has revealed most students get their cigarettes through their parents or from other family members, including older siblings, aunties and uncles.

The Whanganui DHB has launched its own programme targeting parents to back up its campaigns to reduce smoking among teenagers.

The DHB is focusing on Taihape, where local research has revealed more than 75% of rangatahi - young Maori - smoke tobacco.