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Exploring indigenous perspectives on tobacco tax: how some Māori families are responding in Aotearoa New Zealand

Abstract

Objective High smoking prevalence rates, combined with a steep tax on tobacco and lower household income, mean that 5% of Māori (indigenous) whānau (family unit) expenditure in New Zealand is on tobacco. This paper outlines whānau perceptions of, and behavioural responses to, increasing tobacco tax.

Methods This qualitative study was informed by the Kaupapa Māori theory and used a simplified interpretive phenomenological analysis thematic hybrid methodology. A semistructured, open-ended interview guide was designed and used in one-off focus group interviews.

Setting and participants Interviews were separately conducted with each of 15 whānau units. A total of 72 participants, most of whom were smokers, took part in the interviews carried out in two geographical regions: one rural/provincial and one urban.

Results Whānau were concerned about the rising cost of tobacco. However, this concern had not generally translated into quit attempts. Whānau had instead developed innovative tobacco-related practices. Working collectively within their whānau, they were able to continue to smoke, although in a modified fashion, despite the rising costs of tobacco. Whānau thereby resisted the intended outcome of the government’s tobacco tax which is to reduce rates of smoking prevalence.

Conclusion In the face of significant government disinvestment in New Zealand tobacco control over the last 10 years, hypothecated taxes should be used to scale up Māori-specific cessation and uptake prevention programmes, supporting authentic Māori partnerships for endgame solutions including restricting the availability and appeal of tobacco.

  • taxation
  • public policy
  • priority/special populations
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