Hāpai Te Hauora condemns the latest activity by Phillip Morris International (PMI) to associate with indigenous peoples, by requesting pōwhiri and kapa haka support for a corporate event.
In a LinkedIn post this month, a PMI Consumer Relations Lead requested for a kapa haka group of 5-6 people for a pōwhiri in Britomart, Auckland. A number of community and smokefree sector leaders have expressed their dismay at Phillip Morris. For many, this is seen as a shameless attempt to use the mana of matauranga Māori as a smokescreen behind which Phillip Morris are attempting to conceal their history of profiting from the death and disability of our people from smoking tobacco.
General Manager of Tobacco Control at Hāpai, Mihi Blair, expressed her disdain at this audacious effort by Phillip Morris to colonise indigenous peoples by stealth. "Unfortunately this is not the first time Phillip Morris have chosen to exploit our culture for their benefit. Phillip Morris’ history in Aotearoa has not been beneficial to the health and wellbeing of our people. Utilising our culture to enhance their business dealings is truly disappointing. As Māori, we strive to support and promote our identity, however unfortunately there are companies like Phillip Morris who choose to exploit it."
Boyd Broughton from Te Rūnānga o Ngāti Whātua condemns any attempt by Phillip Morris, who have 12 percent of the cigarette market in Aotearoa, to associate themselves and their deadly product with te Ao Māori. Broughton says, "Kapa haka is one of the premier vehicles used to promote, maintain and progress te reo Māori and me ōna tini tikanga (Māori traditions) in the modern time; something which is at odds with tobacco companies, who’ve been quoted saying "We reserve the right to smoke for the young, the poor, the black and the stupid."
A recent legislative change saw vaping and heat not burn tobacco products legalized in New Zealand. Smokefree sector leaders have warned Māori communities to be vigilant for any predatory behaviour from the tobacco industry to try and regain markets lost through the decrease in smoking rates. Hāpai has supported the introduction of vaping as an effective harm reduction tool for many people who smoke, but the Māori public health organisation strongly resists the idea that partnering in any way with tobacco industry is a benign proposition.
Blair continues, "Isn’t it interesting that Phillip Morris claim to be invested in the interests of indigenous communities but have to resort to LinkedIn to find us and pay for our participation in their games? Māori culture is thriving, our community is resilient and there is no place in our country nor our future for Phillip Morris or their kind".