Nearly half of Maori mothers giving birth are smokers, dooming Maori to continued poor health.
According to Hawke's Bay District Health Board figures, the non-Maori and non-Pacific smoking rate of mothers is 11 per cent, compared with 46 per cent for Maori. Of Maori women aged 20-29, 49 per cent smoke.
Board chairman Kevin Snee said though Statistics NZ figures showed Bay smoking rates had reduced there was no real reduction in Maori mothers' rates since 2007.
"Smoking during pregnancy affects the growth and development of the baby and can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth and low birth weight," he said.
"Exposure to second-hand smoke increases the risk of sudden unexpected death in infancy, asthma attacks, chest infections, and glue ear in children."
Smoking caused many illnesses that developed over time.
"It is a major risk factor for lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease and other cancers including lip, mouth and throat cancers, bladder cancer, cervical and stomach cancer."
Smoking was the single biggest cause of inequity in death rates in the Bay.
"The different smoking rates amongst Maori versus non-Maori, and amongst people living in more affluent areas versus people living in less affluent areas, is the reason behind much of the inequity in premature mortality and preventable ill health in Hawke's Bay."
People in the poorest areas were three times more likely to be regular smokers than those in the most affluent areas. Maori rates were more than twice that of non-Maori. Maori women were more likely to smoke than Maori men; 39 per cent compared with 33 per cent.
The ASH Year 10 Survey showed 11 per cent of students in Hawke's Bay were regular smokers compared with 28 per cent in 1999.
"This decrease is seen across all ethnicities in Hawke's Bay but Maori continue to have higher rates of regular smokers, with Maori girls at 24 per cent and Maori boys at 15 per cent."