Harawira fires a volley for the smoking battalion

A tobacco giant has been told there should be a statue to commemorate dead Maori smokers killed by “the enemy that lies within our midst”.

Maori Party MP Hone Harawira told British American Tobacco’s managing director Graeme Amey at a select committee hearing on the tobacco industry yesterday that as many Maori died each year because of tobacco as died in World War II.

He said a submission to the committee on Wednesday spoke of the 600 Maori Battalion soldiers who died in World War II. “We recognise that contribution every year.

“Six hundred Maori die every single year from tobacco yet there is no recognition of that anywhere.”

He said a friend had suggested a giant statue was needed to commemorate the “unknown smoker” as “a way of recognising that the losses in the battalion are replicated every single year by an enemy that lies within our midst and continues to kill our people”.

Mr Amey repeatedly rejected Mr Harawira’s questions saying: “We sell a product that is legal.”

The tobacco firm controls about 75 per cent of all cigarette sales in New Zealand.

Mr Amey told the MPs that tobacco was an already highly regulated product, and any further regulation or ban would only increase an already active black market.

“We believe that a black market exists already.” He then offered to provide evidence to the panel outside of the meeting.

Mr Amey said the illicit trade of tobacco in Ireland made up 30 per cent of the market and 12 per cent in Australia.

Under current legislation, it was legal to grow up to 15 kilograms of tobacco for personal use each year. That equated to about 25,000 cigarettes per individual, or 60 cigarettes a day.

British American Tobacco accepted there were significant risks with smoking but adult consumers were making adult choices, Mr Amey said.

He admitted he had quit smoking after 10 years, saying he did so as a personal choice.

“We acknowledge that we work in a controversial industry, we work within the laws of New Zealand, whilst the laws of New Zealand allow us to sell and distribute our product, and our business is tobacco. If the laws change we will change our business model, to meet the legal requirements.”

“I don’t accept that this is the end of the exercise, I’m thankful that you came.” Mr Harawira said. “I sincerely hope that at the end of our exercise that we can ban forever these deaths that are affecting our country.”

source: stuff.co.nz

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