2 Dec 2014

Stats show fall in Māori smoking rates

8:23 pm on 2 December 2014

Newly-released statistics show Māori smoking rates have dropped by nearly 10 percent from 2006 to 2013.

Māori health specialists said while that was cause for celebration - figures showed tāngata whenua were still lagging behind non-Māori when it came to quitting.

Māori health specialists are calling on the Government to lower nicotine levels in cigarettes.

Māori health specialists are calling on the Government to lower nicotine levels in cigarettes. Photo: Supplied

They said while the Government may be committed to the target of only 5 percent of New Zealanders smoking by 2025, that would not happen unless a radical new approach was taken.

Māori health professionals are calling on the Government to change the way nicotine products are marketed and cut the amount of nicotine in them.

National Māori Tobacco Control manager Zoe Hawke said New Zealand had the second highest level for nicotine in smoking products in the world and that had to drop to stop young Māori from becoming addicted.

Co-Director of New Zealand's Tobacco Control Research Tūranga at the University of Auckland, Marewa Glover, said the new data was good news, but more innovative strategies were needed.

Marewa Glover

Marewa Glover Photo: Supplied

Dr Glover said while only 15 percent of New Zealanders now smoke, some Māori had not been touched by the Ministry of Health's cessation programmes.

"Māori are being left behind and the disparities will remain unless we do something new. The mandatory reduction of nicotine to sub-addictive levels for all smoke tobacco products will absolutely get us there and it may even get Māori to five percent as well."

A medical oncologist, George Laking of Te Whakatōhea, said projections showed the 2025 target was unrealistic.

"This is really a call for willingness across the board for everyone to look at more innovative approaches such as plain packaging and to get to grips with where the new electronic nicotine delivery systems or E cigarettes fit into the picture as well."

Te Manu Korihi has asked the Ministry of Health for a response, but it replied by saying no spokesperson was available today.

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