New Zealand - Maori women - almost 50% smoke..

January 4, 2010 - Dr Marewa Glover, the director of the Tobacco Control Research Centre at Auckland University, wants more attention paid to addressing the alarmingly high number of Maori (native people of New Zealand) women who smoke. While there has been a marked reduction in smoking among teenagers, including Maori - which health officials expect will lead to a reduction in the number of adults smoking - the number of Maori women who smoke remains high at just under 50 per cent.

This is far higher than the 20 per cent smoking rate for the whole population aged 15 to 64. It is also higher than Maori men, who, at 40 per cent, are the next highest smoking group, based on ethnicity and gender. Not surprisingly, the high Maori smoking rate leads to high death rates from diseases caused by smoking. The death rate from lung cancer among Maori women is more than 4 times the non-Maori rate.

The primary concern for Dr Glover is Maori women of child-bearing age, because tobacco smoke harms a pregnant woman and her fetus. She lists the risks to the child - miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth, low birth-weight, sudden unexpected death in infancy, respiratory illness and, later, taking up smoking.

College of Midwives adviser Alison Eddy said many smokers who were not heavily addicted often quit when they found they were pregnant, meaning those who were still smoking at the point of engaging a midwife were probably heavily addicted to nicotine. At this point, a college survey shows, about 45 percent of pregnant Maori women are smokers. This drops to 29 per cent when the baby is born, mirroring the reduction during pregnancy when all ethnicities are counted together. But the Maori rate of smoking in pregnancy is more than twice that for all women.

Dr Glover said: "Our absolute priority group in New Zealand has got to be Maori pregnant women who smoke. That means we have to reduce smoking prevalence among Maori women, particularly of child-bearing age."

Some Maori were fine to use the national Quitline; others needed specialised Maori services. Dr Glover said some of the Maori services received a level of funding that was disproportionately low for the population they were expected to serve.

Reference; Maori women pay price for their high addiction rate by Martin Johnston, New Zealand Herald 1/5/2010.

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