Maori politicians and health advocates are outraged that a tobacco company named a brand of cigarettes Maori Mix.

The Maori Smokefree Coalition (Te Reo Marama) said Philip Morris was marketing a brand of cigarettes called Maori Mix in Israel. The box featured a quasi Maori design and a map of New Zealand.

Te Reo Marama spokesman Shane Bradbrook said the use of the Maori name and the image was a defilement and unbelievable considering the high smoking rate among Maori.

"Would we have them here and call them Jewish Mix? It would be as offensive to the people in Israel as it is offensive for Maori."

Philip Morris said the cigarettes were a short-term special edition and were no longer available anywhere in the world, Newstalk ZB reported this morning. The company said the packs were intended to "communicate open-minded acceptance of cultural diversity". 

Te Reo Marama was notified about the brand by a Pakeha New Zealander living in Israel who bought a packet home with her.

Mr Bradbrook said tobacco killed millions of indigenous people around the world which added to the inappropriateness and the brand should be pulled.

"It's appalling and we are talking to legal experts about what actions we can take."

The director of the Public Health Association, Gay Keating, said tobacco use was the single biggest killer of Maori.

"To therefore use the word 'Maori' on a tobacco product borders on the obscene, and shows yet again that the tobacco industry is concerned only with profits."

Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples was disgusted by the marketing ploy.

"My reaction was an immediate affront that our name would be mixed up with an addiction which has reached what you could say are epidemic proportions among our people," Dr Sharples said.

Apart from health issues the use infringed the Toi Iho (Maori Trademark) - a process for commercial development of products based on Maori imagery and culture.

"Companies who follow ethical practices would go through the appropriate processes in place to ensure indigenous symbols are not misappropriated," Dr Sharples said.

- NZPA, NEWSTALK ZB