National | Māori Health

Māori health organisation wants smokers to kick the habit in May

Maori public health organisation Hapai Te Hauora's eulogy to tobacco art show was launched in Wellington last week and will travel around Aotearoa. (Supplied / NZME)

Hāpai Te Hauora kicked off Smokefree May with Auahitūroa, a travelling art exhibition bidding farewell to the entrenched tobacco culture in Aotearoa.

For years, the Māori public health organisation has been advocating for a smokefree Aotearoa and Hāpai Te Hauora chief executive Jacqui Harema remains committed to the cause despite current legislation repeals.

“The main objective of the exhibition is to prompt conversations that acknowledge the role tobacco has played in our culture and the impact it has had on whānau, hāpu, iwi and hāpori. While our smoking statistics are on the decline, our rates among Māori and Pacific peoples are still some of the highest in the country. Auahitūroa strives to end our nation’s deeply rooted smoking culture, recognising the harm it causes. It’s time to stop doing the same thing expecting different outcomes,” Harema said.

Hāpai Te Hauora chief executive Jacqui Harema. (Supplied / NZME)

Last week’s launch led by artist Hori Thompson features presentations from select politicians who will present their “eulogy to tobacco” including Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, Labour’s Dr Ayesha Verrall, Green Party MP Huhana Lyndon and Rangatira attending like Hone Harawira and Dame Tariana who continue to spearhead this movement for Māori.

The term Auahitūroa refers to comets and is a wordplay on the reclamation of “auahi” (smoke). The comet is also a symbol of the catastrophic damage that would occur if it were to impact Earth. The cyclical nature of comets’ orbits serves as a reminder of the eternal recurrence of events in the universe, and this month’s farewell to the tobacco culture throughout Aotearoa is in recognition of this.

Jasmine Graham, Māori public health manager for Hāpai who has been leading this project for the past 12 months, acknowledges the collaboration involved to present Auahitūroa to the masses.

“The platform, co-led and designed by local artists, rangatahi and Smokefree champions, seeks to amplify community voices, challenge current narratives on the use of harmful tobacco products, and engage audiences using mixed media compositions. This exhibition space is designed to be thought-provoking, igniting emotions, imagination and creating discussions around our current smoking culture,” she said.

Auahitūroa is a free exhibition and makes its way through Christchurch, Gisborne, Whangārei and Rotorua before ending on May 31, 2024, at Te Oro in Auckland