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Effective tobacco-free strategies: by Māori for Māori


Friday 26 November 2010 2:57pm

Research just published in the New Zealand Medical Journal has found senior Māori politicians and officials want more control by Māori over tobacco control efforts for Māori benefit.

Some argue that a dedicated portion of tobacco tax revenue should be spent on reducing smoking amongst Māori. At present 46% of the Māori adult population still smokes.

The researchers from Whakauae Research for Māori Health and Development, in collaboration with the University of Otago, Wellington, examined senior Māori policy makers’ and MPs’ views, on how to achieve progress on smokefree homes, cars and community property.

Lead researcher, Dr Heather Gifford said: “Policymakers generally agree that strong national and local indigenous leadership by Māori is needed to progress smokefree policies. However, they also think there’s a key role for regulation by central and local government to support reduction in smoking.”

She says policymakers argue that indigenous approaches and leadership are critical for reducing smoking amongst Māori.

“We found a widespread view that policies aimed at reducing smoking amongst Māori need to be flexible enough take account of the specific social, political, historical and cultural differences. In that regard many believe that a whanau-focused programme is more effective than a focus on the individual.”

Therefore, harnessing Māori values and general principles relating to health, family and particularly the health of children is the preferred method for delivering effective social marketing messages on tobacco and smoking reduction.

This is in contrast to simply concentrating on programmes which focus solely on reducing smoking across the general population.

The study concludes that Māori tobacco control should be a major priority for the government because of the high rates of smoking amongst Māori and the huge impact it has on health disparities in New Zealand. Some Māori policymakers advocate a total ban on tobacco products within a certain time-frame, to remove one of the key factors in significant health disparities in this country.

For further information contact

Dr Heather Gifford
Whakauae Research for Maori Health and Development
Tel 64 6 347 6772

Dr George Thomson
Department of Public Health
University of Otago, Wellington
Tel 64 4 385 5541 (ext 6504)

A list of Otago experts available for media comment is available elsewhere on this website.

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