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Harawira: To Smoke or to Choke

General Debate - Hone Harawira, MP for Te Tai Tokerau
Wednesday 23 September 2009
To Smoke or to Choke

Mr Speaker, if it’s true that 5,000 Kiwis die from tobacco every year, then it’s also true that tobacco companies are responsible for the murder of 100,000 New Zealand citizens in the last 25 years.

That’s why the Maori Party supports every effort to stop this appalling waste of life, and to break the cycle of addiction that blights our society:
* 5000 deaths every year;
* 25% of ALL cancer deaths in Aotearoa;
* a major cause of blindness and respiratory illnesses;
* diseases of the urinary tract, pelvis, bladder and the digestive tract;
* 45% Maori / 32% Pasifika / 22% Pakeha / 12% Asians;
* and one in every three Maori dying from smoking cigarettes.

That’s why the Maori Party is doing everything it can to reduce tobacco consumption, and to hold accountable those companies responsible for the deaths of those 5000 Kiwis every year.

Mr Speaker, following on from the World Health Organisation recommendations of a mix of taxation, cessation, health promotion, legislation and research strategies, Tariana Turia, co-leader of the Maori Party and Minister responsible for Tobacco Control, has called for:
* a review of smoking cessation programmes;
* an increase in tobacco tax;

* and a ban on the display of tobacco products here in Aotearoa; a law recently enacted in New South Wales, next year in the Northern Territory and ACT, and in Victoria and Tasmania in 2011; because tobacco displays are a very devious and very potent form of marketing a killer product, normalising cigarettes in the eyes of vulnerable kids, and hooking them into buying smokes from a very young age; and banning displays works – we know that because when they did it in Saskatchewan, smoking rates actually dropped 25% in just 6 years!!

And just this morning the Maori Affairs Select Committee approved my request for a full inquiry into the Tobacco Industry in Aotearoa, and the consequences of tobacco use for Maori.

And for that, I thank the National Party leadership and in particular Prime Minister John Key, his deputy Bill English, and Committee Chairman Tau Henare for supporting this because if they hadn’t, it would have died on the table.

This inquiry will be New Zealand’s greatest opportunity to have Tobacco companies explain their actions of promoting and maintaining tobacco addiction, which leads to these horrific deaths.

Select Committee hearings will begin in 2010, giving us plenty of lead-in time to organise cancer patients, whänau, health researchers, health agencies, tobacco control groups and the tobacco industry itself to come before the committee.

We hope to call Minister Turia as well, to hear about what she is doing and to get her advice about how best our work can dovetail with her plans.

We will also be taking this inquiry on the road to make it easier for whänau to attend, and I have no doubt that by the time we finally get the tobacco company execs in front of the committee, we will have gathered enough testimony to really take them to task.

To be brutally frank Mr Speaker, I’d like to lynch these #$^&** tobacco company executives.

I’ve watched too many people die horrible deaths because of their addiction to tobacco, and I’ve seen too much pain and heartache in those left behind to want to be objective about this.

And I’ve heard too many chilling comments from tobacco executives like – ‘We don’t smoke this shit. We reserve that right to the young, the poor, the black and the stupid’ – to have any respect for these people at all.

Hopefully Mr Speaker, with the help of the people of New Zealand, the support of my colleagues on the Maori Affairs Select Committee, and the determination of the members of this House, we can finally bring an end to all this unnecessary waste of beautiful life.


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