Māori considering legal action against Government's smokefree law moves

Protests were held in Wellington and Auckland on Wednesday against the Government's plan to roll back smokefree laws – and a new survey has revealed just how unpopular the move is.  

The poll commissioned by Health Coalition Aotearoa shows 67 percent of Kiwis either strongly support or support keeping the smokefree laws, while just 21 percent are opposed.  

Looking at the three measures going on the scrapheap, reducing the amount of nicotine in cigarettes is the most popular - 77 percent want to keep it, while 16 per cent oppose it.  

Then there's 68 percent who back reducing the number of retailers allowed to sell tobacco while 22 percent oppose, and 65 percent support creating a smokefree generation with 25 percent opposed.  

People stormed the streets of Auckland in disgust of the Government's plans.   

"They say they are a Government that would be good for Māori, good for Pasifika and they will help the poor - well I call bullshit to that," said community advocate Dave Letele.  

While in the capital, a petition with the names of almost 50,000 Kiwis was handed over.  

"Their plan is let people die. We want the money so we can give tax cuts to our rich mates, that's their plan," said former MP Hone Harawira.   

Asked why his Government was rolling back something so popular, Prime Minister Christopher Luxon denied the Government was.  

"Well we're not, we're staying with the status quo," he said.   

Even within coalition voters, there's massive support for the smokefree laws - 80 percent of National and 72 percent of both ACT and NZ First voters want to lower nicotine levels.  

"The National Party didn't campaign on scrapping this law, it wasn't originally in the NZ First manifesto. This is a result of a dirty deal done in a backroom," said Labour's health spokesperson Dr Ayesha Verrall.

But ACT leader David Seymour said it's time "for the government to let people make their own choices and not have five million people living in a nanny state".  

The laws about to be stubbed out would have had a major impact on smoking rates.  

Looking at the modelling for wahine Māori - who are the most prevalent smokers - business as usual wouldn't see them meet the smokefree goal of less than 5 percent smoking until after 2060.   

But with the combined measures of reduced nicotine, drastically fewer retailers and the smokefree generation, the smoking rate would drop to 3.3 percent in three years  

"It's a dying shame that this Government thinks they can do this to us," Green MP Hūhana Lyndon said.   

With its plan to quickly stub out the smokefree laws, the Coalition could be riding roughshod over Te Tiriti.  

Newshub's been told some in te iwi Māori are considering taking legal action against the Government in the Waitangi Tribunal.  

"This Government and me for that matter are a little bit over characterising people by race first and foremost," said Seymour.  

"I would describe that frankly as race fanaticism. It's an obsession that our country has taken to a ridiculous extreme."  

The health advice is explicit. It says the right to be smokefree is entrenched in Te Tiriti o Waitangi, specifically, Article 2 guarantees protection of taonga and the right to wellbeing falls under this and Article 3 sets out the right to equity before the law.  

Asked if he believed the Crown has an obligation to protect Māori health under the treaty, Luxon said: "I think the government has an obligation to improve outcomes for all New Zealanders, Māori and non-Māori."  

Both Māori and non-Māori turned out on Wednesday in their disgust for turning the smokefree laws to ash.