Maori Party defend cigarette tax from racism claims

By Ripeka Timutimu

The Māori Party is defending their decision to support the tax hike on cigarettes following criticism from one of Māoridom’s leading tobacco health researchers.  Dr Marewa Glover says the tax hasn't made significant changes on smoking rates, instead the policy has become a racist one.

Marama Fox is adamant the Māori Party's choice to hike the smoking tax hasn't created a racist policy.

Fox says, “This is not a racist policy. Smoking is racist as most of the deaths are Māori.”

Fox's comments come after NZ's leading Māori tobacco researcher, Dr Marewa Glover said the policy discriminates against Māori, mental health patients and others.

Budget announcements said raising taxes by 10 per cent a year would continue until 2020, which would see some packets of cigarettes cost as much as $30.

Fox says, “This is what is needed by Māori groups. Hashtag has come to me wanting their parents and communities to be smoke free.”

But statistics from the NZ Health Survey found the numbers of Māori women smoking daily fell only slightly over the past nine years.

Fox says her party has other ways of curbing smoking including plain packaging and the possible ban on smoking in cars.