Māori lives and sovereignty threatened by Government's imminent repeal of critical Smokefree legislation


Māori lives and sovereignty threatened by Government's imminent repeal of critical Smokefree legislation

Media release from Te Rōpū Tupeka Kore
2 minutes to Read
Unfiltered 2021

Māori lives are on the line with the Government's inexplicable push to repeal Smokefree legislation, warns Te Rōpū Tupeka Kore, a coalition of Māori health experts, academics, and community advocates.

Smoking remains the greatest preventable cause of death among Māori, representing 25% of Māori deaths. Despite a general decline in cigarette use, significant disparities persist. Latest New Zealand Health Survey findings suggest daily smoking prevalence among Māori is 17%, in contrast to the 6% reported among European/other populations. The Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products Act (SERPA) is estimated to prevent over 3000 avoidable deaths among Māori by 2040. Key SERPA measures aim to make cigarettes non-addictive and much less accessible as well as protect future generations from ever taking up smoking.

SERPA has its origins in Māori advocacy for a Tupeka Kore (tobacco free) Aotearoa in the mid-2000’s. The Act and the associated Action Plan was developed through comprehensive consultation, submissions from Māori whānau nationwide, government meetings, and the establishment of a Māori taskforce.

Claimants include Sue Taylor, Hone Harawira and Shane Bradbrook. They argue by failing to engage with Māori on an issue that will lead to loss of Māori lives this fails to meet Government obligations under Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Shane Bradbrook says “We are taking this action to bring attention to clear breaches of the Treaty. Even basic consultation with the Tiriti partner has been removed and seems to favour big tobacco interests. The Cabinet table is diminishing the protections of not only Māori but all New Zealanders.”

Sue Taylor, Te Rōpū Tupeka Kore chair, is concerned about tobacco industry tactics “We need to shift our focus away from making smoking an individual’s problem. The problem is the tobacco industry and their predatory tactics that keep our people addicted and recruit new people to smoking. The SERPA is a hugely important step towards protecting our wellbeing.” Sue is concerned that the Government has failed to listen to the people. “To date we have seen protests, a petition with over 50,000 signatures, open letters, pleas from other countries and evidence that indicates that their own voters don’t want this. The government seems to be deaf to Te Tiriti and civil society.”

Shane is also concerned about recent comments from the government treating Maori as a revenue source "when you have a Minister of Finance placing a tax grab over our future generations’ health, action is required to protest this appalling and insensitive act.”

Long time advocate for ending tobacco and former MP, Hone Harawira is clear about what is needed “the goal of our claim is simple. We want to protect the health of whānau now and in the future. This means not only whānau Maori but all whānau in Aotearoa can thrive free of the burden of nicotine addiction. It will save costs to the healthcare system and be good for our economy. It’s a win, win situation”. 

 Call to Action: 

We urgently call upon the government to reconsider the imminent repeal of SERPA, engage in meaningful dialogue with Māori and the wider public, and formulate evidence-based policies to protect the health and well-being of all New Zealanders.