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Be bold on smoking

Written By: - Date published: 9:27 am, September 14th, 2009 - 21 comments
Categories: health, maori party, national - Tags:

Very good piece by Anthony Hubbard in the Sunday Star Times:

The Maori Party is pressuring the government to take tough new anti-smoking measures including a hefty price rise and a ban on retail displays and is calling for a select committee inquiry to “bring these bastards from the tobacco companies out in the open”.

Smoking is a key issue for Turia’s party, as it is linked to a third of all Maori deaths. Maori smoking rates are among the highest in the world, and are twice as high as Pakeha rates. About 45% of Maori aged 15-64 smoke (154,000 people) and between 650 to 1000 Maori die as a result every year. In total, 690,300 Kiwis aged 15-64 smoke.

Great to see the Maori Party taking on a substantive issue which could bring great health benefits to Maori and to other New Zealanders. Sadly however, decisions on issues like this are not made rationally, they are political decisions.

The issue is shaping up into a serious political stoush sources say Turia has become so frustrated with Health Minister Tony Ryall that she has gone over his head to Prime Minister John Key. Turia, Ryall and Key declined to comment last week but a spokesperson for Turia confirmed she was “in talks with other ministers about a number of tobacco issues”.

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia is leading the push for change, and although she is up against National’s deep aversion to moves that could be seen as “nanny state”, her party holds an important trump card – its status as a key coalition partner.

I think Hubbard overestimates the value of that “trump”. Recent history has shown us that National is only too happy to sideline the Maori Party. My guess is that National will be too spooked to do the right thing here. They have already risked significant public backlash over the “smacking” referendum response, and are involved in several other nannyish initiatives (such as the ban on cell phones for drivers, and planned revisions to alcohol limits). I can see Key concluding that taking on smoking as well could be a nanny too far.

So this is a call for Key and National to be bold on this issue. You have the luxury of a responsible opposition that doesn’t try and score cheap political points out of populist ranting (iwi / kiwi, “nanny state”). You have the luxury of enduringly high poll ratings. You thus have a real opportunity to take on this significant issue and make a real difference to the health of New Zealand. Please use it.

21 comments on “Be bold on smoking ”

  1. Tim Ellis 1

    Recent history has shown us that National is only too happy to sideline the Maori Party.

    You mean by calling them “haters and wreckers”, excluding them from a governing arrangement, calling them “the last cab off the rank”, and repeatedly sniping at them?

    • Pascal's bookie 1.1

      What was the National party saying back then Tim?

      I think it was along the lines of “iwi/kiwi”. What does that mean?

      • Daveo 1.1.1

        Fuck I’m bored of Tim Ellis.

        • felix

          Yeah he’s like the obnoxious drunk at the party.

          No-one knows him, no-one invited him, and no-one’s interested in his ranting. It’s obvious he doesn’t know and/or believe most of the guff he spouts but he stands in the kitchen telling ridiculous lies about himself and insulting the integrity of anyone who passes.

          The ladies avoid him at all times.

          But every now and then someone makes the mistake of responding to him with rationality (which is never, ever going to have any effect on him) instead of just ignoring the boring, drunken idiot and leaving him to fuck off back to where he belongs.

          Who’s friend of a friend did he come here with again?

          • Tim Ellis

            Obviously a rough weekend for you Felix.

            • Pascal's bookie

              So what does iwi/kiwi mean Tim?

              I recall you said you switched your vote to National for that election, and you seem like a well informed and thoughtful chap, so you must have some idea.

            • Tim Ellis

              Yes I recall that discussion PB and I also recall you insinuating that anybody who switched their vote to National in 2005 was a racist, to which I wished you good luck in trying to win the votes back from people you loathe.

              The irony is that despite the Brash Orewa speech, National has still managed to form a constructive relationship with the Maori Party, because they treat the Maori Party with respect. I don’t think you can say the same about the Labour Party. Over on red alert Mr Hipkins and Mr Jones regularly attack the Maori Party whenever they can.

            • Pascal's bookie

              Tim Tim Tim, all I did was ask what the slogan means, and once again you fail to tell me.

              I did sort of kinda imply that perhaps you may have switched vote for racist reasons, but that was only because you couldn’t/wouldn’t explain what the slogan meant, or why you switched vote.

              As for me not getting any votes back, you seem to have me confused with a political party. You do that a lot, which is revealing wrt to your own intellectual honesty and reasons for writing.

              But just for the record, if that slogan is racist, which I think it is, and you are yet to deny, and if people switched to National because of it, then as far as I’m concerned, National can fucking keep them.

            • Armchair Critic

              “…because they treat the Maori Party with respect.”
              Is that the respect they gave by forcing Tariana Turia to go over the head of Tony Ryall on the subjet of this post, or the respect they gave by saying no to Maori seats on the new Auckland Council?

            • Tigger

              Wait a second – someone voted FOR Don Brash?

            • Pascal's bookie

              Lot’s of people did tig. Shocking eh? I’ve narrowed it down to a few types:

              Died in the wool National Party types,

              NeoLib ACT voters who liked Brash’s economic policies,

              and people attracted by “iwi/kiwi”, and “respect for marriage” whatever those slogans meant.

              TE voted Labour in 02, so I’ve asked him on a number of occasions what iwi/kiwi means, but he doesn’t want to say, and gets all huffy about it, waives his hands, points his fingers and generally acts like a big baby.

              I don’t think he feels very good about it. I think he just needs to get it off his chest.

            • Tim Ellis

              Wasn’t a big issue for me in 2005 PB, although you seem obsessed with it. You have repeatedly tried to frame the debate on your terms, interrogating me about how big an issue it was for me, but I repeat it wasn’t a big issue. On your reasoning anybody who voted National in 1981 was also a redneck, and anyone who voted for Labour in 2002 was a warmonger (because Helen Clark sent troops to Afghanistan).

            • Pascal's bookie

              It’s not an obsession Tim, but yeah, it’s an issue that interests me. as it interests me that you seem to find the question so hard to answer.

              It’s not a hard question. What did the iwi/kiwi mean?

              There’s no framing on my part, I’m just genuinely asking/wondering why anyone would vote for that. It does seem strange to me that someone would vote for Labour in 02, but National in 05.

              I don’t give a rats arse if it’s because of whatever iwi/kiwi, mainstream or ‘integrity of marriage’ meant. We live in a democracy, which I’m very glad of. People can vote for whatever they like. And I’m allowed to talk about that. You don’t have to justify your vote Tim. Though you do seem very reluctant to talk about it. That’s ok, but still.

          • BLiP

            Spot on, Dr Felix.

  2. BLiP 2

    Leave the smokers alone – we’re a dying breed as it is :smile

    In talking about National Ltd’s “nanny state” policies you forgot to mention the most nanny-ish of them all – Basher Bennett’s “never shake a baby” advertising campaign. Although, one can see through that little public relations ruse straight away: the idea that Basher Bennett gives one flying fuck about children is laughable given her willingness to subject the parents of the nations weakest to a public kicking plus the fact that her “baby shaking” campaign remains firmly stuck to the drawing board.

  3. gargoyle 3

    If Turia can twist the Nats arm to come up with something to further decrease the the amount of smokers in NZ all power to her.

  4. Maynard J 4

    “excluding them from a governing arrangement”

    You really know 5/8 of SFA there.

  5. infused 5

    I really do hope they take such an approach.

  6. Byron 6

    It would be good if the Maori Party (or anyone in parliament) could draw attention to studies like this one which found that:

    “Among smokers, an increased likelihood of higher intensity of smoking was associated with higher job strain and higher effort-reward imbalance and their components such as low job control and low rewards…Among former and current smokers, high job strain, high effort-reward imbalance, and high job demands were associated with a higher likelihood of being a current smoker”

    I’m all for getting rid of the retail displays but upping the price is just going to be taking more money away from the low wage workers who turn to tobacco as stress relief. “Job strain” (stress, speed up, lack of breaks, under-staffing) and effort-reward imbalance (high work load for low wages) are the things that need to be fixed to reduce smoking rates.

    • blacksand 6.1

      agreed; extra taxes just increase the associated stress and don’t do anything to actually help people quit. It’s a logical incentive, but not a functional one.

      I think the work done in the last 10 years has helped a lot though, it has transferred (most of) the inconvenience of the habit from the passive smokers to the active smokers. The advertising campaigns have been good too, fuck if that’s social engineering it’s a prettty passive form of it…

  7. George D 7

    The Maori Party is pretty pissed off on this issue, and for good reason. This is disgusting politics from National, at the cost of many lives.

    If I was the Labour Party I would use this to wedge the Maori Party against National, not attack the Maori Party directly – there will be times for that on many issues, but attacking the Maori Party for something they’re fighting for is just playing politics with the issue.

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