The call for the tribal elders to impose a smoking ban on marae, by the Maori Party has drawn a mixed response from the leaders.
Te Tai Tokerau MP Hone Harawira has advocated that the kaumatua to drive for a smoke free marae, alarmed at the unreasonably high Maori smoking rates. It has been reported that almost half of the people in Maori smoke with the rates among the women being one of the highest in the world.
Mr Harawira has said that too many kaumatua overlooked cigarette smoking on the marae with the belief that to ban it would dissuade young people from visiting. He said, 'Our people are great workers, but they would be even better workers who lived healthier, happier and longer if they didn't smoke.'
Ngapuhi chairman Sonny Tau, giving a very cautious support for the call of banning smoking has said that most Northland marae were smoke free. But cautioned that any moves to ban smoking should involve all marae members. He said, 'The call must be made with caution, with an end result of working towards it rather than just implementing it. I support his korero, because of the high smoking statistics among Maori.'
Willie Jackson, the spokesman for Nga Whare Waatea Marae in Mangere, had said that even though he would support the initiatives to end the high rates of smoking in Maori, he was opposed to it being issued as a directive from the politicians. He was quoted as saying; 'Hone has taken a hard, and probably the right, line. However reality must kick in, you have to respect people's rights.' He further explained that as many marae workers and elders smoked and it would not be right to expect them to go out to the road to smoke.
Hemi Rau the Tainui chief executive had said that many Tainui marae were smoke and alcohol free. He said, 'While tribal leaders can give an indication, at the end of the day it is up to each marae committee to make the final call.' It has been reported that among Auckland's three main marae, Orakei, Waatea and West Auckland's Hoani Waititi Marae, only the last is smoke free. Mr. Harawira has launched a campaign that targets tobacco companies this year and called for a ban on all cigarettes.
The Smoke free Environments Amendment Bill that was passed in 2003 has banned smoking in schools, bars and other workplaces.