The big smoke

By Ian Anderson A THIRD of New Zealand’s Maoris die from diseases caused by smoking, according to a new study. This toll, described as “devastating” by the New Zealand Ministry of Maori Development, is almost twice as high as that caused by smoking in the country’s non-Maori population—and higher than that recorded in any indigenous population worldwide. The study was conducted for the ministry by Health New Zealand, a consultancy in Auckland. “It has been known for some time that deaths from smoking are high in the Maori,” says Murray Laugesen of Health New Zealand. “But this is the first time we have had such detailed figures to show how high.” Laugesen and his colleague Mark Clemens found that, between 1989 and 1993, 31 per cent of Maori deaths could be attributed to smoking. The deaths of 41 per cent of those who died from cancer were linked to tobacco, as were 33 per cent of deaths from heart disease and 62 per cent of deaths from respiratory problems. On average, Maoris lose 3 to 4 years of life to cigarettes, the researchers’ report concludes. When compared with women in 46 other developed countries, middle-aged Maori women had the greatest risk of dying from a smoking-related disease. Unless the trends are halted, the researchers warn, deaths from smoking will double among Maoris within 30 years—as the generation of “baby boomers” reaches middle age. The report has already sparked calls for improved health-education campaigns. The Maori Smoke Free Coalition, an anti-smoking pressure group,
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