Story: Women’s health

Smoking and cancer

July Minnell’s fight with lung cancer was the subject of July’s legacy, a television current affairs programme broadcast in 1990. In the footage shown here, Minnell talks about the smoking that has caused her terminal illness. When she started in 1960 smoking was still widely accepted. The direct causal link between tobacco and lung cancer was not acknowledged until the mid-20th century. Tobacco companies continued to deny that cigarettes were dangerous, funded research to ‘prove’ that they were not a health problem, and added chemicals that increased their addictive quality. Tobacco-smoking was embedded in many Māori communities, and the rate of smoking among Māori women was particularly high. Studies in the 1960s and 1970s found rates of up to 70%. July Minnell, gracious, humorous and active in her community, died at the age of 48.

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How to cite this page:

Megan Cook, 'Women’s health - Health of Māori women, 1940s to 2000s', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 21 February 2024)

Story by Megan Cook, published 5 May 2011