It’s disappointing but not surprising to find the NZ Herald approving a health scheme that will benefit only some people – to be selected racially.
This is the same newspaper that fudged the racist component when it reported on the scheme earlier this week.
The eligibility criteria that are buried somewhat in the Herald report are clearly set out on the Counties Manukau Health website:
To be eligible, women should be:
Pregnant – up to 28 weeks and
Maaori or Pacific Island and
Living in Manurewa (includes Weymouth, Clendon and Wiri)
The blinkered hacks at the newspaper have overlooked this aspect of the scheme to focus on other criticisms in an editorial today:
Predictably, there is outrage over a scheme in South Auckland that offers women smokers a voucher for up to $300 if they stop smoking while pregnant, to avoid the harm that tobacco can do to an unborn baby. But all the talk about the mother’s personal responsibility and the like disregards a couple of salient facts.
The most important of these is the price an unborn child might pay for a mother’s failure to act in its interests. Society also gains when the benefit of preventing smoking-related birth complications far outweighs the cost of the vouchers, which can be spent only on groceries, baby products, cinema tickets or petrol.
Ideally, of course, such a carrot should not be needed. Carrying a baby should be enough incentive to stop smoking. But despite copious education and a variety of schemes, the smoking rate, while dropping slowly, still remains at 15.5 per cent of adults.
The editorial goes on to note that tobacco tax rises are the most effective means of lowering this rate.
Another tax rise was imposed on January 1 and two more will be imposed over the next two years.
But incentives such as the voucher scheme are also worth trying, says the Herald,
…particularly in the case of pregnant smokers. They are harming not only themselves. Smoking during pregnancy contributes to higher rates of miscarriage, pre-term births, low birth weight, babies’ difficulties during childbirth, asthma and glue ear.
If the voucher system persuades a woman to quit smoking while pregnant, it is $300 well spent.
Yes – but let’s spell it out.
The scheme is not intended to help all pregnant smokers. Just some.
And no, it has not been tailored to help all impoverished women using income criteria.
Those whose unborn babies are being given a helping hand with public funding are being selected on a race basis.
This was to be expected, when we look back at the role of the Maori Party in promoting anti-smoking policies.
Little fuss was raised when Hone Harawira issued a media statement a few years ago to welcome legislation that would push up tobacco prices.
Alf happened to support the legislation, too.
But he also spotted an ominous racist element in the way Hone promoted it.
He said the Maori Party’s love for their people had motivated them to push for a major increase in tobacco prices.
“It is the aroha that we have for our people that has inspired us to push for any and all moves that will reduce smoking,” Maori Party MP Hone Harawira said.
“About 600 graves a year are dug too early for Maori people because of smoking, so today is about saving lives.”
This somewhat overlooked the 4400 other graves that are dug each year for victims of the smoking habit.
Now we find the Herald enthusing over a scheme with racist eligibility criteria to sort out who might be offered this particular pathway to salvation and better health and those who will not.
These, of course, are pregnant women who are neither Maori nor Polynesian.