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New Documentary Chronicles Maori Battle With Smoking

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
New Documentary Chronicles Maori Battle With Smoking

A new documentary - A Killer Legacy - which will screen on Maori Television on 11 December will highlight the devastating impact that smoking has had on the Maori population; especially Maori women. The project has been funded by national Maori health provider Te Hotu Manawa Maori and the Heart Foundation of New Zealand.

"Even-though we are seeing reduction in smoking rates amongst Maori, almost half our population continue to smoke," says Chief Executive of Te Hotu Manawa Maori Moana Tane.

"We are especially concerned about the numbers of Maori women smoking. 60% of Maori women aged between 20 and 24 smoke, although the rate decreases with age. So the documentary focuses on the stories of Maori women as smokers and workers in the sector.

"The goal of the film was to allow Maori women, whose lives had been dramatically affected by smoking to tell their stories, and to do so in the context of the Maori Affairs Select Committee inquiry into the tobacco industry."

Hiria Minnell-Rolleston is National Tobacco Control Manager for Te Hotu Manawa Maori, and plays a leading role in the documentary. Her mother July Minnell died from smoking-related lung cancer when Hiria was eleven years. The last 12 months of her life was chronicled in the TVNZ documentary 'July's Legacy' which first screened in 1990.

"Moana Tane and I were talking about how far we have some since that documentary, and we came up with the idea of a follow up to 'July's Legacy'," says Hiria Minnell-Rolleston.

"For me it was like letting skeletons out of the closet. I was too young when Mum died and didn't know what was going on. I let out stuff that I had bottled up so it was very healing.

"Even-though there has been huge progress in terms of community and political awareness, smoking is still a big issue for Maori women. People are trying to quit; but it's an addiction and we still don't have enough access to support services."

A Killer Legacy focuses on Hiria's journey, and the impact of her mother's premature death. The documentary also follows the Maori Affairs Select Committee's Inquiry into the Tobacco Industry in Aotearoa.

"It gives a sense of the amount of work we have done over the last twenty years," says Moana Tane.

"Maori academics and health professionals have been leading this movement. We are deeply concerned about the impact tobacco has on Maori. As workers many of us have seen deaths in our whanau and this motivates us in our work.

"In many ways the Maori Affairs Select Committee Inquiry is like the last piece of the jigsaw. At long last we have political champions who support this kaupapa. Hone Harawira has the support of the sector to have tobacco banned from Aotearoa. He has been a key player in recent developments."

The documentary also exposes some of the debates about how best to deal with the issue of Maori and tobacco.

"Many of us were unhappy about this year's increased taxes on tobacco," Moana Tane says.

"On the one hand it should encourage Maori to quit smoking, but on the other it places additional financial pressure on our whanau who are already struggling."

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