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Conference challenges Maori leadership

19 October 2005

Conference challenges Maori leadership to stop genocide

A Maori smoke-free conference which opens in Wellington tomorrow will challenge Maori leadership to join the fight against tobacco.

"Tobacco is a Maori-killer," Shane Bradbrook, Director of Te Reo Marama, the Maori Smokefree Coalition said today.

"Smoking is the single biggest killer of our people, and tobacco companies have deliberately targeted Maori for years. It's about time our leaders joined the battle against this genocide."

The conference - Te Ao Maori, Te Ao Auahi Kore (Maori Environment, Smoke Free Environment) - runs this Thursday and Friday at Te Papa in Wellington. It pulls together international and local experts, and Maori health providers who work in the smoke-free area.

"The good news is that we have actually seen a reduction in the number of our people smoking, down 5% between 2003 and 2004. But 47% of our people still smoke. That's almost half our population, and it's higher than any other group."

Considering the magnitude of the problem Mr Bradbrook believes that government investment in Maori smoking cessation falls short of what it should be.

"Maori currently contribute around $260m from tobacco use and receive about $5-6m per annum for tobacco control efforts. It's a piffling investment, and that's why we're challenging our political and social leaders to stand up and be counted."

Te Ao Maori, Te Ao Auahi Kore, Hui 2005 opens tonight at Te Papa at 6pm and runs until Friday.

ENDS

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