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Speech: Flavell - Smoking


First Reading; Friday 10 December 2010; 10.45pm

Te Ururoa Flavell, MP for Waiariki
Kia ora anō tātou katoa. I start by thanking all colleagues for their acknowledgments of the Hon Tariana Turia and Hone Harawira for their part in presenting this legislation to the House. Unfortunately, they are not here, so I will take all of their accolades! That aside, members know that they have done a lot of work. But let me tell members that while they are getting all the accolades some of us were doing the real hard work in behind the—Ha, ha, I’m just joking! They have been working hard at things.
It will be no secret to the House that tobacco control and things around tobacco have been a key priority for the Māori Party. Thankfully, on the back of the efforts of both Tariana and Hone we think that we have made some major traction. Of course, other parties have contributed, as has been acknowledged in the House tonight. The party’s tobacco campaign to rid our shores of tobacco harm has resulted in some real landmark milestones, which include, as some have already mentioned, Tariana’s initiative to increase tobacco tax, Hone’s initiating of an inquiry into Māori-related tobacco death by the Māori Affairs Committee of Parliament, and the introduction of this legislation to ban retail displays and keep tobacco out of sight, out of mind. We are making, I think, significant progress. The momentum, we hope, will be continued. The past 12 months have been the most rapid, I think in my view as a non-smoker, on this issue in terms of history making around tobacco control

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So I stand as someone who feels pretty good about the progress we have made as a party and as a Parliament over this space and time over the last 2 years with the National Government. I acknowledge the work that Tariana has done and the whole Parliament, which passed her legislation to increase tobacco excise with an overwhelming cross-party majority of 118 votes to four. The House will recall some 6 or 8 months ago that the excise tax increases were really significant. First off, we equalised the tax on loose tobacco to match tailor-made cigarettes. That was about ensuring that no matter what type of tobacco was smoked, the smoker would face the same incentive to quit. Then we raised the tax on all tobacco products by 10 percent, and for the price of *roll-your-own tobacco that had the effect of an immediate increase of more than 25 percent. But that was not all; the legislation passed that night included another 10-percent rise in January 2011 and then another 10 percent in 2012.

I will speak on the work that Hone Harawira has been doing. He had the original idea for the Māori Affairs Committee to hold an inquiry into the tobacco industry in Aotearoa and the consequences of tobacco use for Māori. It was an initiative that he took up with a lot of vigour. It was pleasing to see the way that the Māori Affairs Committee, maybe a little bit reluctantly at the start, but certainly once it gathered momentum, could see from the evidence that this was an honourable take to take up. They did so, and that resulted in the debate on Wednesday of this week about that topic. Just over a year ago the select committee announced it would carry out that inquiry into the tobacco industry and the consequences of tobacco use for Māori.

n March 2010 our co-leader and Associate Minister of Health Tariana initiated a public consultation on a proposal to ban tobacco displays in retail outlets. I am sure that most of the House is aware of many of the statistics, although maybe not able to quote them off the top of the head right now. We found in the information from that consultation process and some information given to us that tobacco is the largest single cause of preventable death in New Zealand and that an estimated 5,000 people die very early, well before time. There were major ramifications for whānau in losing the lives of elders and parents. The most critical fact that motivates all of us to be here today is that 45 percent of Māori aged between 15 and 64-years-of-age are current smokers, one in two long-term smokers will die of smoking-related diseases, and those who die lose on average 15 years of life. None of those statements are new, but we offer no apology in repeating them tonight as we look at this issue.
We are still losing generations of our people who are dying in middle age. Even more tragic is the fact that up to 46 percent of Māori fall into the category whereby sudden, unexplained death in infancy is attributed to smoking. We welcome the initiative championed by our in this bill by our co-leader the Hon Tariana Turia. It will make tobacco less visible and attractive by reducing the tobacco marketing and advertising that still exists. It will, hopefully, make tobacco less accessible by providing for better measures to prevent sales to children and young people under the age of 18. These measures will not only aid in preventing young people from starting to smoke but will help those trying to quit.

There is actually a tragic history to the use of tobacco in Aotearoa, and it goes back to a time, for our people, before the Treaty of Waitangi. In terms of some of the accounts in my area of the Bay of Plenty from when the Treaty was taken around—having done some research around this—eight pounds of tobacco and twelve pipes were taken to chiefs in Opotiki; five fancy pipes and half a pound of tobacco to Te Kaha; two fancy pipes and half a pound of tobacco to Torere; and eleven fancy pipes and five pounds of tobacco to Whakatane. Hopefully, today we take on face-to-face some of that background history, which will overturn itself at least with the movement forward of this particular bill.

In closing, I say that Aotearoa approach to tackling tobacco harm has been turned up another notch, we hope, because of the Māori Party’s efforts, through, of course, working with the National Government, and with the support of the other parties in general, across the floor. These are all efforts to save and preserve the precious lives of people across the country. If that is the motivation, then it cannot but be supported as we look towards positive influences for not only our young people, but, certainly, those who are older in age. Kia ora tātou.

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