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Smoking threatens our culture

Creating a vision for a resilient, thriving, and smokefree Manawatu is high on the agenda for a focus group comprised of Palmerston North community members.

Hapai Te Hauora (Māori Public Health Services, Auckland) recently initiated a hui at Te Wakahuia Manawatu Trust in Highbury to gather information to support a proposed approach to government on reducing the availability of tobacco in community dairies. Research shows that dairies supplying tobacco are disproportionately located in lower socioeconomic communities in which Māori are more likely to reside. This contributes to smoking uptake and poses challenges for those wishing to quit.

MidCentral Public Health Smokefree Health Promotion Advisor Julie Beckett said: “In the MidCentral region we have nine tobacco free retailers and we would love to see more choose to be tobacco free.”

There are many reasons dairies go tobacco free, including the fear of being robbed. These nine dairies have shown that their businesses can continue without the need to sell tobacco. Some dairy owners have commented that it’s a huge weight off their shoulders not having thousands of dollars’ worth of tobacco in their shop. Others, who are near schools, feel proud that school children won’t see people purchasing tobacco from their shops.

One member of the focus group, Hera Epiha, emphasised the need to address tobacco use from a holistic perspective. “Smoking is just a symptom of our society; all the other things that surround smoking like housing and unemployment need to be taken into account too.”

Ms Ephia also shared that a smokefree Palmerston North means fitting in, having a place to belong. This demonstrates that strengthening our identity and knowing who we are as Māori is so important in creating a thriving community. As Māori, our identity is strongly tied to our relationship with our environment which makes getting tobacco out of our communities such an important kaupapa.

While there have been some achievements in tobacco control legislation, these hui with community have demonstrated that both the smokefree sector and communities want tougher legislative restrictions on tobacco. Focus group member Raylee Duff said there was a need for greater restriction on selling cigarettes near schools, alcohol stores and bars. She said these restrictions on tobacco supply are needed if New Zealand is serious about a Smokefree 2025.


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