In an age where smoking is becoming increasingly frowned upon, banned and distasteful, there’s one sector of our community where evidence suggests the message isn’t getting through fast enough:
31% of Maori deaths are due to cigarette smoking
46% of Maori are regular smokers compared to 21% of non-Maori
Dying For A Smoke (Wednesday Jul 6, 8.30pm) is an in-depth investigation into New Zealand’s smoking problem, specifically focusing on smoking among Maori but also looking at trends within the wider community.It features personal stories of smokers - people like Natasha who started smoking when she was very young:
“I started smoking Port Royal at 11.I’m still smoking it.”
And now she can’t give up …even though she’s pregnant:
“When I get pregnant I smoke more.A lot more.I was worried about how it would affect the baby but I still can’t give up.”
What’s most alarming about Natasha’s smoking stories is they’re not unusual among Maori:
The median age for young Maori to first start smoking is eleven and a half
39% of Maori women smoke while pregnant
In order to understand how this can occur, the documentary looks at how tobacco is marketed – seeking comments from industry experts like Jeffrey Wigand - the subject of the Russell Crowe film The Insider. He says many of our problems with tobacco can be tracked back to the marketing strategies of the tobacco companies:
“The industry goes after children, it goes after females, it goes after indigenous groups….it goes after people that are less educated so they’re always looking to prey on the easy ones.”
The programme also looks at how the tobacco companies get into the psyche of our young people – first and foremost through exposure to adults smoking:
“Being around mum and dad who smoke, tempted me to try and it didn’t really stop from there.”
And then impacting through subtle but highly influential ways of making tobacco accessible and desirable to young people – like product placement in shops and the way cigarettes and tobacco are branded.
On these points and issues like plain packaging of cigarettes , Imperial Tobacco agreed to a rare on-camera interview:
“It would be wrong for tobacco displays to be taken away. Number one it will start to undermine personal freedoms - why shouldn’t an adult smoker be allowed to chose from a product display.”
Dying For A Smoke is an informative, shocking and emotional documentary with a clear message - something has to be done about the appalling rates of smoking among Maori. Preaching will not work.
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