Waatea News Column: Criminalising Māori smokers is not a solution

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Parliament is currently looking to criminalise smoking in cars with children. Seeing as the largest block of people this would impact are young Māori women, the idea of green-lighting Police to hassle young Māori women any more than they currently do sounds like a recipe for disaster.

65% of Māori offenders have a driving offence as part of their initial jail sentence and about 5% of jail sentences are just for driving without a license.

Criminalising smoking in the car will disproportionately target Māori women and it will lead to fines, people unable to pay the fines, penalties added and eventually imprisonment.

No one wants to see the next generation cursed by second hand smoke, but criminalising this isn’t the solution. Why is it whenever the largest group who will be punished by a law are Māori, no one bothers to consider the counter-productive elements of such a law?

Surely the focus here should be in having smoke free environments, punishing smoking parents won’t create those smoke free environments anymore than punishing parents for truancy will lift education levels.

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When we remove the benefit from a beneficiary with children who fail drug tests, who exactly are we doing that for? It isn’t the children who now have to live on 50% less welfare. It’s funny that whenever Māori are the most impacted by any decision, there is simply no end to the level of punishment and suffering we collectively tolerate against them.

Criminalising parents who smoke in their cars isn’t a solution, it just makes the entire situation worse.

First published on Waatea News.

28 COMMENTS

  1. But criminalising smokers is the next step fighting against Big Tobacco.

    The Puritans of Public Health have zero tolerance for your back-sliding dressed up as compassion for the poor – the poor and depressed can just quit – or die. Vaping is just a tobacco industry trick!

  2. Aotearoa Liberation Army is the solution, Bomber… unless you’re more of a Jian Yang, Xin Xilan man? 😉

  3. Asking people to not smoke around their kids has in my opinion nothing to do with race its simply common sense. It results in sickness and long term health issues that wont go away. A horrible burden on the people like myself who grew up inhaling second hand smoke and society who have to pick up the tab when people who are victims of smoking end up in the medical system. For myself that means long term use of publicly subsidised inhalers I can’t live without.

    That said I’d ban the filthy things outright myself but this is not a bad place to start.

  4. This is a simple health question, but a complex proposal for those directly affected. The fact that smoking has not been curtailed in Maori communities, means the education system has failed. Perhaps no surprise, but this is what needs to be addressed before criminalising an act more prevalent among Maori, which will only increase prejudice.

    • Matthew: “The fact that smoking has not been curtailed in Maori communities, means the education system has failed.”

      I’m not so sure about that. I spent most of my career working in the health sector. My impression is that the health messages are heard all right, but many people choose not to act on them; some form of anti-nanny state-ism – or something of that sort – seems to be going on. Regarding persistently high smoking rates among Maori, that’s also what it looks like to me.

    • Matthew: with regard to my earlier response to you, I’d add that the fact that smoking rates in Maori communities remain persistently high is paradoxical, given that many such households are very poor, while cigarettes are astronomically expensive. I do not know how people can afford them.

      When I gave up smoking many years ago for health reasons, I think that ciggies were around 50c a packet. I’m astonished at how much they cost now; our budget nowadays certainly wouldn’t admit of my going back to smoking. Even were I disposed to do so.

      It’s long years since I smoked; nevertheless, I have some lung damage as a result. Not severe, fortunately, but even so…..

  5. Now this is nanny state policy usually i support some form of nannyism but this is going too far.
    Do our NZ police ( who are short on numbers) want to provide a smoking brigade so they can pull over cars with children in them and the parent or adult is smoking. Then once they pull them over what do they do, do they issue them with a warning or a ticket for 50$ and what happens if they don’t pay do they arrest them or what else can you do. This policy has the potential to hurt those they are trying to help better to invests in good health promotion and education.

    • Good point, Michelle. I rather think the police would prefer to target methamphetamine manufacturers and murderers than cigarette smoking mums – it’s a total waste of police resources and hopeless prioritising by Parliament, but maybe the govt does small issues best.

      I see far more drivers driving with cellphones than cigarettes, and we all know that smoking in cars isn’t good for anybody, but part of me thinks empowering the police to reprimand, or in any way chastise parents for this in front of their own children, is repugnant. It could also upset some kids.

    • I recall that the UK has had this law for a few years now and the Police haven’t actually ever handed out a fine.

      • UK police haven’t handed out a fine but NZ Police may do cause they seem to be a bit useless leaving two glocks in their car and not hand cuffing prisoners can we trust them to not cause mayhem nah! best not to go there

  6. There is absolutely nothing wrong with expecting adults not to smoke in cars with their children and a small fine to enforce it!

    The next generation of Maori deserve to be smoke free and not addicted to substances that are killing them so corporations can make a profit.

    As for 65% of Māori offenders have a driving offence as part of their initial jail sentence and about 5% of jail sentences are just for driving without a license it is time that is addressed – maybe the grants towards Maori could be targeted at driving licenses and a complete overhaul with how some people seem to be getting light sentences and other’s harsh sentences which seem to be related to race and residency status and creating a haven for criminal activity in NZ for some.

    It is especially bizarre that Maori are in jail for driving offences, when we see that money laundering drugs money resulted in a zero conviction which seems to be a major social harm in NZ and inflicted mostly on local people and the person’s realationship to the NZ citizen has already failed so I guess another WINZ mother from overseas getting into NZ to be supported, https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/115157974/woman-discharged-without-conviction-for-laundering-money-for-international-drug-ring (meanwhile WINZ theft get prison and separation from children for local parents, https://www.catrionamaclennan.co.nz/blog/stop-sending-beneficiary-mums-to-jail-our-double-standard-on-debt/
    https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11922336)

    Killing a child while stoned and drunk gets home detentions for some https://au.news.yahoo.com/teens-heartless-halloween-costume-post-causing-cyclists-death-062728327.html.

    Somethings wrong with how there seems to be a strong misjustice in NZ to do with race and some profiles get off jail, while others are jailed for less serious crimes.

  7. I think you need to ask our police force how they feel about enforcing this silly policy after all they are the ones who will have to pull over people

  8. test Well if they are going to care about second hand cigarrette smoke then why not fine the drivers for driving vehilces Cars and truccks through our residential streets to pollute our air with far more air pollution than cigarrette smoke comkming out of their tailpipes brakes and clutches and tyre dust particulates?

    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4237118/Living-near-busy-road-bad-passive-smoking-10-day.html

    Stop all air pollution or leave smokers alone as we have to little consideration as owners odf properties living alongside busy traffic roads.

  9. Well if they are going to care about second hand cigarrette smoke then why not fine the drivers for driving vehilces Cars and truccks through our residential streets to pollute our air with far more air pollution than cigarrette smoke comkming out of their tailpipes brakes and clutches and tyre dust particulates?

    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4237118/Living-near-busy-road-bad-passive-smoking-10-day.html

    Stop all air pollution or leave smokers alone as we have to little consideration as owners odf properties living alongside busy traffic roads.

  10. “65% of Māori offenders have a driving offence as part of their initial jail sentence and about 5% of jail sentences are just for driving without a license.”

    While I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that Maori have a driving offence as part of their initial prison sentence, I don’t think that anybody – Maori or not – is being imprisoned just for driving without a licence. I’m pretty sure that any judge imposing a prison term just for that would be ultra vires, given that imprisonment isn’t in the punishment regime for driving without a licence. So: it’s misleading to make claims of that sort, and it doesn’t support whatever argument you’re hoping to make.

    “Criminalising smoking in the car will disproportionately target Māori women and it will lead to fines, people unable to pay the fines, penalties added and eventually imprisonment.”

    Children matter. Their exposure to second-hand cigarette smoke certainly matters; their parents have prime responsibility not to smoke when their children are around – most particularly when they are in a car with their, or other people’s, children.

    I’m unconvinced by your special pleading for Maori women: they are adults and need to act like adults and parents when they’re in a car with their children. They can set aside their need for a cigarette for that time.

    I’ve been a smoker: I know all about the nature of that addiction.

    • And that’s the challenge of bigotry isn’t it D’Esterre? I say that Police are so racist and so biased that they look for reasons to shake down Maori and the biased system does the rest, you say I’m pulling this statistic out of my arse you say I’m lying.

      The stat comes from the Howard League for penal reform, they work with Māori inside prison and found that repeat offenders with no licence end up in prison, 5%. They work to get driving licence tests for prisoners because they understand that driving without a license is a gateway imprisonment contact point between the cops and Maori.

      I see the EXACT same dynamics will play out by criminalising Maori mothers.

      You can cling to the belief that the system isn’t biased, but it’s the desperation of a person ho wants to belief that. It’s not reality.

      • Martyn: “I say that Police are so racist and so biased that they look for reasons to shake down Maori and the biased system does the rest…”

        Racism is just another meaningless epithet. Racism is the purview of governments, not of individuals; our judicial system and societal arrangements do not explicitly discriminate in favour of – or against – particular groups, which is what racism is all about. Though under that definition, the Maori electorates and related Parliamentary seats are racist.

        Because we’re a groupish species, bias is – one way or another – part of the human condition. I don’t doubt that – despite their best efforts – some police officers will harbour a level of prejudice against Maori. That’s not particularly surprising. There’s a chicken-and-egg situation going on here: Maori commit crime. No dispute about that. So other Maori are more likely to be stopped on the street.

        When it comes to driving offences, however, especially when police are patrolling highways and motorways, they stop people on the basis of driving errors that they see, or for visible defects on the vehicle. They won’t be able to identify who’s driving, so there is less likely to be prejudice operating.

        The biased system: by this I guess that you mean the courts. But people who work in the court system have pointed out on comment threads that nowadays, judges bend over backwards to avoid imprisoning Maori. Don’t we see it in the court reports? But often, there’s no option but imprisonment, given how awful the crimes committed.

        “….you say I’m pulling this statistic out of my arse you say I’m lying.”

        Please do not attribute to me something I didn’t say.

        “….Howard League for penal reform, they work with Māori inside prison and found that repeat offenders with no licence end up in prison, 5%.”

        Note the words “repeat offenders”: that’s the critical thing here. I doubt that the Howard League would be saying that people are imprisoned just for driving without a licence. I repeat: imprisonment isn’t a punishment for driving without a licence, even if one is caught multiple times. However, unlicensed drivers who’ve committed other crimes for which imprisonment is mandated will fetch up in the jug. But that’s not the same as being imprisoned for driving without a licence.

        “…driving without a license is a gateway imprisonment contact point between the cops and Maori.”

        Unless one is picked up in a police roadside checkpoint, in general, driving unlicensed won’t be noted unless another offence is being committed: drunk or drugged driving, for instance, or speeding/dangerous/careless driving. Or some other offence.

        A relative of mine drove for around 15 years (may even have been longer) without ever having had a licence. Eventually picked up in a police checkpoint, given a specified period of time to obtain one. It was a bloody stupid and feckless thing to do, especially given that they were driving their kids around (partner similarly unlicensed), but they were lucky not ever to have been in a crash. Had that happened, it’d have been very expensive for them.

        “….criminalising Maori mothers.”

        Nonsense. Maori women – and anybody else who smokes in a car with children present – have the solution in their hands. Don’t smoke in the car; simple. People who drive children around are required to act responsibly and to protect the vulnerable. Maori women are as capable as anybody else of doing that.

        “You can cling to the belief that the system isn’t biased….”

        In my comment above, I made no mention at all of bias. Again: you are attributing to me something that I didn’t say. In this comment, I’ve certainly mentioned bias or prejudice, largely because you were slinging about the racism epithet, and that needed countering.

  11. You right on the button Martyn, we are more likely to be apprehended, we are more likely to be charged and we are more likely to be incarcerated. I have experienced this by our police and so have many others but we get people like d estirer who say other wise no matter what even when we give anecdotal evidence it gets poo pooed on sad really. Does she thinks it came out of our arse to unfortunately this is how some people think there logic is you must have been doing something wrong

    • Michelle, who can’t or won’t spell my nom de guerre correctly: did you actually read my original comment, or do you read only those comments which you think will support your viewpoint?

      Martyn’s response wasn’t to my original comment; he attributed to me things I hadn’t said.

      If anybody wishes to argue that the police and the justice system generally act out of prejudice, then it’s not helpful to present misleading claims in support. I’d characterise much of what Martyn asserts as quite tendentious, actually.

      “…..we get people like d estirer who say other wise…”

      Assuming that it’s me to whom you refer, in my original comment, I said no such thing. I challenged Martyn’s claims about driving unlicenced being an imprisonable offence. I stand by that.

      “…we give anecdotal evidence….”

      Anecdote doesn’t constitute evidence; any epidemiologist or statistician will point that out. Produce the evidence, say I.

      “….thinks it came out of our arse to unfortunately this is how some people think there logic is you must have been doing something wrong”

      Again: in my original comment, I said no such thing. However: in my second comment – which you’d not have seen when you posted your comment above – I have made an observation about this. I don’t have stats, of course: what I said is on the basis of many years of study, and how human societies work. So I’m taking a punt there.

  12. Well if those Maori seats are racist d estirrer does that mean the people that created them are racist cause it wasn’t us that created these seats it was the government of the time trying and stop us from out voting them that is why we only got 4 seats and we could only vote for them that is how they controlled us at the time. Only land owners were allowed to vote at one stage and our womens owned land but English women were the property of their husbands and landless in NZ.

    • Michelle who can’t or won’t spell correctly my nom de guerre: “….does that mean the people that created them are racist…”

      No. Of course they weren’t. The attitude of 19th century politicians – and people generally – toward Maori and other indigenes was broadly similar. Nowadays, we’d regard their views as very retrograde. I’m old: my parents’ generation was the same. It was just the way of the world at that time.

      I know a fair bit about this aspect of NZ history. The laws enacted by those politicians in respect of the Maori seats were intended to constrain the Maori vote. At that time, there was fear that the Maori vote would swamp that of the settlers, hence the Maori seats. The effect was and is racist, because the legislation explicitly applied only to Maori.

      For many years thereafter, the popular view was that the Maori seats protected the Maori franchise; during the time of FPP, there was some truth to that. But the Royal Commission into MMP concluded that a change to a proportional voting system meant the the Maori seats would be unnecessary, because Maori representation in Parliament would increase. And so it has turned out.

      The Maori seats still constrain the Maori vote, in my view. You would all be better off politically without them, as the Royal Commission envisaged. There’s no question that they’re racist; given that fact, it surprises me that many Maori themselves want to retain them.

      “…Only land owners were allowed to vote at one stage and our womens owned land…”

      I’m aware of this, you know. Technically – because of their status as landowners – Maori women would have been the first women in the world to get the franchise. Although when the Maori seats were first established, women weren’t allowed to vote, I believe, whether or not they owned land.

      Here’s something of interest regarding the way elections used to be run here:

      “In European seats, the secret ballot was introduced in 1870.[8] However, Māori continued to use a verbal system – whereby electors had to tell the polling official which candidate they wanted to vote for. Māori were not allowed a secret ballot until 1938 and even voted on a different day. According to NZ History online: “Up until 1951 Maori voted on a different day from Europeans, often several weeks later.” It was not until 1951 that voting in the four Māori electorates was held on the same day as voting in the general election.[9]

      NZ History also states: “There were also no electoral rolls for the Maori seats. Electoral officials had always argued that it would be too difficult to register Maori voters (supposedly because of difficulties with language, literacy and proof of identity). Despite frequent allegations of electoral irregularities in the Maori seats, rolls were not used until the 1949 election.””

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electoral_system_of_New_Zealand#MMP_in_New_Zealand

      In any event, the property-owning qualification was eventually dropped, and the vote was granted to everybody in 1893. This was the first country in the world to have universal suffrage; and by a country mile the first colony to give the vote to the indigenes, for all that the voting system for Maori was flawed.

    • Michelle who can’t or won’t spell my nom de guerre correctly: “….if those Maori seats are racist d estirrer does that mean the people that created them are racist…”

      No. they weren’t racist. They had views about “coloured” people and women – and pretty much anybody who wasn’t like them – that nowadays we would regard as egregiously unreconstructed. But those views were then regarded as the norm: still were in my parents’ generation. Though my late mother had slightly more radical opinions; my late grandmother said to friends that my mother was “a real little democrat”. It wasn’t a compliment.

      In any event, the Maori seats sprang out of such a worldview; and they were quite a radical concept when considered in that light. And yes, they were intended to constrain the Maori vote; at that time, Maori outnumbered pakeha in many electorates, and pakeha were concerned that Maori voting power would tip the political balance away from them. And yes, the property-owning qualification applied: had that not been so, it’s instructive to note that Maori women would’ve been the first women in the world to get the vote. The seats were racist, in that they were restricted to Maori, discriminated against their more general participation in the electoral process; and they were a formal part of governmental arrangements.

      Eventually the property-owning qualification was dropped and in 1893, NZ became the first polity in the world to grant universal suffrage. This was quite something: all NZ citizens had the vote, regardless of whether they were male or female, Maori or pakeha.

      During the period of the FPP electoral system, the Maori seats were defended as providing at least some representation for Maori. And there was some truth to that.

      However, when the Royal Commission was considering the change to a proportional system – the MMP system that we now have – it recommended that the Maori seats be abolished. It believed that the proportional system would greatly increase Maori representation: thus the Maori seats would be redundant. And so it has proven to be.

      In my view, and that of many people, the Maori seats still act as a constraint on the Maori vote. Maori would be better-served by voting in the general electorates (and of course many do). Given that they are restricted to Maori, the seats are still racist: I’m surprised that Maori insist upon retaining them.

  13. Quite a few commentators on this thread seem to think an action should be made illegal if there are good reasons for disapproving of it, when the two don’t necessarily coincide. Spousal infidelity, for example, meets with quite a lot of disapproval, but you don’t see much lobbying for it to be made illegal. I am not making a false equivalence here, I am illustrating the point that disapproval and legal sanction don’t necessarily follow one another. The claim here is that disapproved actions, where the punishment would impact mostly on Maori, is more readily made illegal, and more readily punished, than other disapproved actions. For instance, it is also thought bad for young children to be homeless, or forced to live in cars, but it is not illegal for a landlord to evict a family with young children, knowing they will be homeless as a result. We are not very punitive either, toward those who are cavalier about the physical safety of their workers, although losing a parent in a work accident can be devastating for children. Due to the power imbalance that arises from inequality, it is far easier to glibly add another punishment to those endured by the have-nots, which include many Maori, and then crow about it, than it is to raise the hackles of landlords and industrialists. No one is saying that you shouldn’t urge people not to smoke in cars with children in it, the question is whether making it illegal will do anything better than further afflict the afflicted while comforting the comfortable.

    • Olwyn: ” I am not making a false equivalence here….”

      I think that you are. The issue of smoking in cars, and the deleterious effects of secondhand smoke on children in particular, is closer to that of the wearing of seatbelts – which was once voluntary, but is now compulsory. If one is caught not wearing a seatbelt, a fine is imposed. In both cases, harm – potential or actual – is involved.

      “The claim here is that disapproved actions, where the punishment would impact mostly on Maori, is more readily made illegal, and more readily punished, than other disapproved actions.”

      That simply isn’t true. With regard to smoking, disapproval has nothing to do with the situation: it is a health issue. It isn’t only Maori who smoke around children in cars; I know that smoking rates are persistently high among Maori women, but I’ve seen no data to confirm whether or not they are disproportionately responsible for smoking in cars with their children present. And unless somebody can produce evidence of that, people who claim that Maori women will be unfairly targeted by this ban are just spitting in the wind.

      “….it is far easier to glibly add another punishment to those endured by the have-nots, which include many Maori, and then crow about it, than it is to raise the hackles of landlords and industrialists.”

      Again: the prohibition on smoking in cars with children present doesn’t apply only to the poor; in fact, given the astonishing cost of cigarettes now, I find it hard to believe that anyone who is poor could even afford them. And remember: it’s a health issue. I have zip sympathy for anyone who is so feckless as to endanger the health of their – or other people’s – children by smoking around them, whether in a car or not.

      “No one is saying that you shouldn’t urge people not to smoke in cars with children in it, the question is whether making it illegal will do anything better than further afflict the afflicted while comforting the comfortable.”

      Urging people not to smoke in cars with children present is tantamount to doing nothing at all to protect children. This prohibition is to be enacted by an amendment to the Smoke-free Environments Act 1990, a piece of legislation we’ve had for almost 30 years. In my view, it’s long past time that a government did this: people who aren’t responsible enough to take note of the health implications of smoking and look after the children in their lives, may need a fine to wake up their ideas.

  14. Snow White: “…part of me thinks empowering the police to reprimand, or in any way chastise parents for this in front of their own children, is repugnant. It could also upset some kids.”

    I think that Martyn’s characterisation of this issue has been tendentious. This is an amendment to the Smoke-free Environments Act 1990. Not to the Crimes Act. So: people won’t be criminalised.

    Here’s Jenny Salesa’s press release:

    https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/prohibiting-smoking-vehicles-carrying-children-improve-health

    “Under the change, Police will be able to require people to stop smoking in their cars if children (under 18) are present. Police will also be able to use their discretion to give warnings, refer people to stop-smoking support services, or issue an infringement fee of $50.”

    Exposure to secondhand smoke is a serious health issue, especially for children. No surprise that respiratory illness is a persistent problem among Maori children, along with stubbornly high smoking rates among Maori.

    I’m reminded of the wearing of seatbelts. When we were young marrieds, wearing seatbelts was recommended, though not mandated by law. But of course in those days, fewer cars had them (though ours did).

    Subsequently, it became law to wear a seatbelt. Not wearing one, if the car was fitted with them, attracted a fine. Smoking in a vehicle when children under 18 are present will also attract a fine.

    For the life of me, I fail to understand why a health measure of this sort would engender so much opprobrium. We who are adults ought to have children’s best interests at heart.

    • I find your smug and sanctimonious self righteousness defending a Police force who are corrupt and racist so condescending. Open a door for the cops to use discretion and it will be abused. This will be, as I have stated with previous stats, simply another racist tool to beat the bejesus out of Maori women with.

      Dress that up in ‘won’t somebody think of the children’, but it still equates to counter productive social policy weighted against those who always get shat upon.

      • Martyn: :” ….smug and sanctimonious self righteousness…”

        Well now. I assume that’s aimed at me. As a general rule, I conclude that when somebody resorts to epithets of this sort, they’re all out of substantive argument.

        “…defending a Police force who are corrupt and racist so condescending.”

        If you’re responding to my comment to Snow White, I was quoting from Jenny Salesa’s press release. I said nothing about the police.

        Is this the same police force, whose sunny narrative about the gun buy-back events you wish to privilege over the more sobering accounts of the gun-owners themselves? So: does that mean that from your point of view, the police are to be trusted over taking law-abiding, licensed gun-owners’ guns, but not over fining (or just cautioning) people who are smoking in cars around children?

        “…simply another racist tool to beat the bejesus out of Maori women with.”

        Another one? What else do they use? And beating Maori women? You’re implying that they’re already doing that: surely, if that’s so, there’d be a lineup of cases at the IPCA. I’ve not heard anything like that.

        “….counter productive social policy weighted against those who always get shat upon.”

        Bollocks. This is a health issue; not dissimilar to the law requiring us to wear seatbelts. Children’s health – and the protection thereof – is crucial. And the health implications for children trump all other arguments.

      • Martyn: :” ….smug and sanctimonious self righteousness…”

        Well now. I assume that’s aimed at me. As a general rule, I conclude that when somebody resorts to epithets of this sort, they’re all out of substantive argument.

        “…defending a Police force who are corrupt and racist so condescending.”

        If you’re responding to my comment to Snow White, I was quoting from Jenny Salesa’s press release. I said nothing about the police.

        Is this the same police force, whose sunny narrative about the gun buy-back events you wish to privilege over the more sobering accounts of the gun-owners themselves? So: does that mean that from your point of view, the police are to be trusted over taking law-abiding, licensed gun-owners’ guns, but not over fining (or just cautioning) people who are smoking in cars around children?

        “…simply another racist tool to beat the bejesus out of Maori women with.”

        Another one? What else do they use? And beating Maori women? You’re implying that they’re already doing that: surely, if that’s so, there’d be a lineup of cases at the IPCA. I’ve not heard anything like that.

        “….counter productive social policy weighted against those who always get shat upon.”

        Bollocks. This is a health issue; not dissimilar to the law requiring us to wear seatbelts. Children’s health – and the protection thereof – is crucial. And the health implications for children trump all other arguments.”

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