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Coalition in NY to challenge tobacco giant

Media release

25 April 2006

Maori Smokefree Coalition in New York to challenge tobacco giant

Te Reo Marama Director Shane Bradbrook and Youth Advocate Skye Kimura confront tobacco giant Phillip Morris in New York tomorrow about their abuse of Maori culture and symbols – and broader issues about the impact that smoking has on Maori people.

“We’ll be presenting them with a statement about the “Maori Mix” debacle last year, and talking more broadly about the way tobacco kills our people,” Shane Bradbrook said from New York today.

International tobacco control advocate group Global Partnerships for Tobacco Control is organising a mass convergence on Altria’s shareholder meetings in New York City and New Jersey. Altria is the parent company to Phillip Morris.

“As far as I know this is the first time that an indigenous organisation has faced a tobacco company in this way,” Shane Bradbrook said. “It’s part of our broader strategy in the war against tobacco.”

“This is the biggest killer of our people and we want to take a more aggressive approach. For too long our messages have been targeted at iwi Maori, telling them to quit smoking. What we should be doing is telling the tobacco industry to stop selling poison to our people.”

ENDS

“We don't smoke this shit, we reserve it for the dumb, the black, the ignorant and the poor.” David Goerlitz, former Winston promoter.


Maori in the Mix

Shane Bradbrook, Director, Te Reo Marama – Maori Smokefree Coalition


Last year a New Zealander living in Israel e-mailed Maori working in the Smokefree area, concerned about a new line of cigarettes being marketed Philip Morris. She explained in her e-mail that the packaging featured Maori designs. While she was a smoker herself, she was concerned about the way that Philip Morris was aligning Maori with a tobacco product.

The woman (who did not want to be involved in any publicity about the product) came home for a visit in December and brought a packet with her. More than simply featuring Maori designs, the cigarettes were called “Maori Mix”. The packet featured quasi-Maori designs and a map of New Zealand on the back of the packet.

Smoking affects Maori more than any other group in New Zealand. It is the single biggest killer of Maori, and accounts for a third of all Maori deaths. This is reflected in higher rates of lung cancer, heart disease, SIDS, respiratory infections, glue ear, meningococcal disease and diabetes. Around half the Maori population smoke – this is way higher than any other group. As the indigenous people of the country we are also sensitive to the exploitation of our language and cultural symbols.

At Te Reo Marama we have also been talking the need to shift our communications focus away from smokers. Social marketing campaigns have tended to be smoker-focused; encouraging Maori smokers to quit. This is only part of the equation however. What we are dealing with is a powerful industry that targets our people, so at least some of our communications energy needs to be directed towards them.

The Maori Mix story gave us an opportunity to expose the industry. It also had all the elements of a news story – it was quirky and shocking; it was about New Zealand on the international stage; it was about Maori issues.

TVOne ran the story during their 6pm bulletin on 12 December, and it was excellent. As well as covering the story itself, they explained how the industry has a history of using Maori imagery to promote its products – and included all of our key messages about Maori and smoking.

Over the next day we experienced unprecedented media coverage of the story in radio, television, and print media. Some of the themes that emerged during this coverage were:

- New Zealanders were very sympathetic to our concerns, and horrified at the exploitation of our language and imagery
- We were able to use a high profile and potentially negative story to focus on the plight of Maori and smoking; and generate sympathy from the public and decision makers
- Mainstream media – who can be notoriously anti-Maori – were our ally.

We received an immediate retraction and apology from Philip Morris, and we are considering whether we will take any further action.

Others indigenous communities were also appalled, and in the case of Native Americans and First Nations, they were reminded that indigenous peoples are constantly used by this industry to sell tobacco.

This is one response to the use of Maori Mix

“The Hopi Tribe located in the State of Arizona, United States recently passed a Tribal Resolution to ban smoking in tribal facilities and requires all smokers to smoke 50 feet away from these facilities. The State of Arizona is also introducing a state initiative to ban smoking in all public facilities and 50 feet away from these buildings.

I wanted to express my support for your actions where misuse of tribal symbols, identity, etc. is disregarded by major companies. We have had tribal religious sacred sites destroyed by non-Indian developers and companies. A Hopi religious symbol was used on a whiskey bottle which was blatant abuse of the sacredness we hold for this symbol in our society. The company's response was "if it is not protected by a trademark" it can be used by anyone for anything. In the dominant society, this is true.

We as indigenous people of the America's will continue to struggle against this attitude and misuse of our identity, symbols, etc. Please encourage your people that we are continuing our fight against such practices. Kwak'Khay (Thank you in the Hopi language)”

+++

Fact Sheet


Maori and smoking


- Tobacco is the single biggest killer of Maori. It accounts for a third of all Maori deaths.

- This is reflected in higher rates of lung cancer, heart disease, SIDS, respiratory infections, glue ear, meningococcal disease and diabetes.

- 47% of the Maori population smoke. The prevalence rate reduced 5% between 2004 and 2005.

- This means almost one in two Maori smoke, which compares with one in five for Europeans and others, and one in four for Pacific peoples.

- Maori prevalence is especially high in the 20-24 year old age group, with 59.1% of Maori in this age bracket smoking.

- In terms of young people the prevalence of smoking among Maori remains high compared to non-Maori, particularly in females. In 2004 the prevalence of year 10 female Maori who smoked daily was 29.1%, compared to 16.2% for male Maori.

- Maori contribute around $260m in taxation from tobacco use and directly receive about $5-6m per annum for Maori tobacco control efforts.

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