Nigel is a 41-year-old Pākehā man living in Southland. He lives with his parents while dealing with his mental health. During the week he works on the farm.


I didn’t start smoking until, I think, it would’ve been when I was 21. It’s not actually that I thought of taking up smoking, it was just ’cause I’ve had trouble with my mental health and I thought maybe it would help.

It was interesting when I first smoked a cigarette. Like after 1 cigarette I was on a complete high for about an hour or 2. I’d wander down to the beach and back and it would be really great. But that didn’t last forever, it lasted for about 50 or 100 smokes.

I’m working on a farm, unofficially. I’m unemployed while I’m dealing with my mental health. In the morning I take the dog for a walk because he’s got behavioural problems. I do that for about an hour. So I have 1 ciggie out and 1 ciggie back. With my psychological, mental health, I find it a bit tough getting up in the morning and getting out. Smoking helps with that.

I smoke 6-7 on a weekday and a bit more on the weekend if I go away. My dad’s got a very negative attitude towards smoking.

Healthcare support to stop smoking

My present key mental health worker said if it wasn’t bad for your health, smoking would be an ideal mindfulness tool to help slow your breathing, and for doing simple actions and becoming more aware of your surroundings.

Tried vaping?

When I went to Sydney last time it was quite strange, because it had only just come in then and they didn’t have anyone vaping. People in New Zealand were vaping all the time.

I didn’t like the idea of it but I thought I would give it a try. But then I got one you have to plug in to a Playstation or something like that. I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of it setting it on fire or something – I was a bit worried. So I stopped vaping.

I’m a bit more traditional. Tobacco feels a bit more natural. I like watching tobacco burn down to the end. There’s a ritual involved.

Taxing tobacco

The price is getting pretty exorbitant. I started off smoking tailor-mades but I smoke rollies now. They’re a bit cheaper and it lasts longer. I just get the cheapest. It’s something I’m resigned to. I’m on a pretty good wicket at the moment, though it would be nice to be able to spend that money on something else.

Bans on where people can smoke

The mental health ward used to be the only place in the hospital you could smoke but in the end they did away with that too.

Last year, I ended up remanded in custody in prison and I didn’t have any money coming in. You actually had to get the money to pay for smokes. To get money to buy like extra rations, extra supplies, and cigarettes, I was doing dares like eating bugs and other people gave me cigarettes for the first couple of weeks.

One time, I was visiting Auckland and I had a wander around the casino. I don’t play pokie machines myself.  There was heaps of smoking outside in the smoking area, where it’s supposed to be. In one smoking area they had pokie machines and there was a guy playing pokies and smoking. As a smoker myself, I thought that must be the lowest of the lows you can get to – pretty desperate.

I go to a pub once a month. I’m in a choir. It’s quite funny because normally smokers stick together but often, now, I’m the only one. I have problems with groups and there’s a large majority of women there so it’s kind of uncomfortable. It’s a situation where I’d go outside to smoke, but now I don’t have anyone there to go for a smoke with. Times have changed.

Smokefree 2025

They’ve got a very idealistic view of how its gonna work. The whole idea of making smoking illegal - I haven’t really thought about. I have assumed it will be a fine. But, also, I don’t know if it’s going to become a drug offence. I don’t know if it would be considered a drug internationally. I have travelled a bit. I’ve been in trouble with the police. When you travel, having had trouble with drugs is a pretty big deal. Another big deal going on my criminal record is something I would want to avoid. I am not too worried about fines. The one thing I have been worried about is how having a criminal record effects travel and getting jobs and stuff.

Legalising cannabis

I don’t smoke drugs, as a general rule. I don’t smoke marijuana. I had an interesting experience with it that was quite bad.

I don’t see how they can legalise cannabis, which is another form of smoking, and then make smoking cigarettes illegal. Smoking tobacco creates a whole lot of chemicals. I don’t see how people don’t see that smoking cannabis also creates a whole lot of chemicals, some of which would be also be harmful. I’ve seen a lot of posts about how harmful marijuana is for health and lifestyle.



2 months later...

I’ve spent a lot of time with family over Christmas. I was worried about having the niece and nephew around seeing me smoking. They’re 5 and 9. My aunt used to smoke when I was a kid and that probably influenced me about being a bit more comfortable about starting smoking. I wouldn’t want them taking up a filthy habit like smoking. It’s bad for a person’s health.

I’m back to work now, so back to the regular routine. I get up about 7.30am, smoke probably about 8.15-8.20am. I don’t know how many I was having 6 months ago. I have 2 smokes when I’m walking the dog, plus another 1 at morning tea if I can manage it. I only have 1 smoke at lunchtime now. I tend to have a smoke after I have a shower in the evening. It’s an odd feeling ‘cause you’re feeling all refreshed and clean you want to savour the feeling. But at the same time – well, it’s a dirty habit. I’m still smoking tailies.  I smoke the cheapest tailies.

Intention to stop smoking

I have a few thoughts about the future, but quitting isn’t one of them. I’m more worried about losing weight than quitting smoking. I’m going to Weight Watchers. I have been for a few years – my weight’s gone all the way down and all the way back up. 

Tried vaping? 

I have seen it. It looks like it’s getting easier to use and more efficient, but I haven’t taken it up. I’ve still got the old one that I wasn’t comfortable using. You had to plug it into a special USB thing – I didn’t like the idea of getting it mixed up and it catching on fire. 

Mental health

I had this big nervous breakdown back about 10 years. I thought I was at a pretty good stage and my mental health was improving. I was just sort of managing risk-taking, risk management, risk reward, and it got all skewed a few years back. I was staying in respite for mental health. I punched the flatmate of a friend, and my friend took a trespass order out on me. He was my only good friend at the time. Then I punched a guy at the hospital a few weeks or so later. Everything was just a big catastrophe. I got charged but got let off and just got diversion. I was like oh that’s a relief, and that’s when things really got crazy. I was like this can’t be happening? Yet it seems like it is. I was walking and picked up a sign and threw it across the pavement and it broke. A woman came out and she ended up calling the cops and I got arrested. I was worried about the trespass being on my record. And then I got charged and now that’s on my record. I had no money and I stole some stuff to get some smokes. I was trying to get in touch with my Mum and her phone wasn’t working. I got so frustrated, I ended up breaking a shop window and getting trespassed from that shopping street. I was getting more and more wound up and in trouble with the law. Then I tried this prank, which was obviously stupid. I tried to see if I could unlock some of the rooms where I was staying, at the hostel. I thought I’d see if my key would unlock the office, which is even stupider, riskier. The cops turned up and I got taken away to a holding cell. I was completely freaking out – that’s how I ended up on remand.

In terms of risk-taking, I was pretty high up there and I was thinking, wow, this could see me put away long-term, this could kill me or lead to a life-changing injury. It was a bit of fun. But I was worried. And it got me attention which is nice. Because otherwise I was just another white guy in prison. 

I was trying to get my mind under control. It was probably easier being locked up for 20 hours a day.

I’m more stable now. But yeah, a lot of regrets from back then.

Smokefree prisons

When I was in prison, you could still smoke outside. Smoking was something to look forward to.

Having smoked a long time, I’m aware of when smoking’s not gonna help my mood. It’s sort of a mindfulness exercise with negative health consequences. You’re focusing on your breathing and lighting a cigarette and watching the smoke and everything. So, smoking is kind of a mindfulness exercise.

It was later that Judith Collins banned smoking in prisons, when she was Minister. She thought it was a great idea and that people should be improving themselves while they’re in prison. There must be some people getting really wound up in prison now.  Having been a smoker, I’d be interested to hear from prison staff if things have changed, if prisoners are getting more worked up ’cause they can’t smoke. Or whether, everybody’s in the same boat, so it might calm the whole prison atmosphere down. I don’t know.

Healthcare support to stop smoking

I’ve had two key health workers. The first one wasn’t too concerned about my smoking. When I explained to my present key worker about smoking, he wasn’t really too worried, he said, “Oh that’s fine, that’s the way it is.” I see a shrink every 3 months. Last time I saw him, he was more worried about my weight.

Seen any stop smoking campaigns?

I see the old smokefree logos around. I remember a TV ad from about 5 years ago, with a woman trying to find somebody to smoke with her. It was an old Māori cast. One of the guys says, “No, I’d rather play my guitar”, and she ended up alone. There was the one about a cigarette butt and how they’d met at a party. I thought it was quite funny, the dialogue was cleverly written about relationships. They’re always pushing the health thing. Apparently, when my aunt was smoking, my grandmother tried to get her to stop and she used to say, “Oh, it’s a filthy habit.” Back in that time it wasn’t appropriate for women to smoke. It was a guy’s thing. I think you were seen as easy, or promiscuous if you were a woman smoker. 

Plain packaging

The price seems to go up and up. I think they’re on a pretty good wicket. I asked one of the dairy owners if the prices have got more compressed, but I don’t think he understood what I was asking him.

I’ve been giving a worker a ride to buy groceries, and he buys me a packet of cigarettes. We’ve had a bit of a laugh in the workplace about the olive-green packaging and how some brands are not available anymore. I remember one of the tobacco company representatives saying, well if we can’t compete by packaging, we have to compete on price

It makes me think of the days about 50 or 100 years ago when they used to have collectors’ cards with famous cricketers and fighter aircrafts. That’d be quite cool. I’ve got a packet of Peter Stuyvesant tucked away in case I ever run out, because the packaging’s quite cool. In Aussie they always used to go on about Stuysies.

Smokefree 2025

I was hoping that marijuana gets legalised, so I was a bit disappointed that it didn’t. I thought it might ease the pressure on smokers. They’re talking about Smokefree 2025, and said, we’re not trying hard enough.

Covid & smoking

My older brother made a few off-hand remarks about how people who are obese and smokers are more likely to have bad outcomes from COVID. I know that singing, yelling and talking loudly is likely to spread it, but I haven’t heard anything about people who smoke being more prone to spread it.



4 months later...

My smoking is still the same. I had 2 smokes this morning and then another smoke at morning tea. I seem to have cut out my lunch smoke all together. Then I have a smoke after work and after dinner, which I have about 6:50pm. I probably have another smoke when Dad goes to bed, just so he doesn’t catch me out and start going on about smoking again.

I’m smoking tailormades, but less 'cause I think they’re the cheapest. Actually, the dairy near me have decided to get out of the whole shop thing altogether. So, I’ll have to remember to get smokes when I go to the city on Fridays. So, that’s a thing I’ll have to deal with.

The woman put me onto JPL, John Player Long. I didn’t notice a difference apart from they’re longer and the filter was a bit longer too. She said they didn’t last as long. They put prices up, so JPL come out the cheapest. I think they’re $35 for a pack of 20. I buy about three packs a week. So, it’s gone from what was $80 to about $100.

The prices are hard to keep track of because the packs are all locked away. One shop has this thing where only 1 packet gets released at a time. I’d just ask for the cheapest cigarettes, but it seems like a hassle. If I do ask, they have to go and have a look at the cabinet and get back to me.


I’m on a pretty good wicket, so yeah. I might have to look at cancelling my Sport channel or Netflix, but I don’t have a lot of expenses going out. It’s probably a good opportunity to save some money while I’m back living with my parents and working in the family business.

Tried vaping?

The first experience was so complicated it really put me off. I bought this metal one – you had to refill it and it had some kind of fuse in it. You could only charge it with a certain charger and if you plugged it into the mains, I got the feeling it might start a fire or something. This was 2 or 3 years ago. It seemed exciting at the time, but I never got into it.

I’ve been visiting family. My aunt was supposed to be vaping and I was giving her cigarettes. Her kids think she’s vaping. Well, she is vaping as well. She said to my aunt from the other side of the family, oh you’ve caught me smoking.

Another time I was at the pub, out in the smoking area. A young woman was vaping, and I had to crush out my cigarette and she said, “Oh, can I grab that?” I sort of half crushed it out and she grabs it and smoked it. 

I think it came in about 10 to 12 years ago. I don’t think they called it vaping then. They called it e-cigarettes. I remember them starting the warnings against vaping on planes. 

But I should look at it again. Something that’s convenient, easy to charge, and you didn’t have to worry about burning down the house would be nice.

There used to be a vaping place in the city, but I don’t know if it’s still there. I’ll have a look. I’d be interested to see if it gets Dad off my back. It’d be interesting as a social experiment.

But if they’re going out of cigarettes, they’ll be going out of vaping at the dairy. 

Stop smoking campaigns

I’m not really paying attention to that. In the city, it’s smokefree from this street to that street, which isn’t really enforced by anyone. I don’t know who would enforce it.  

Professional healthcare support to stop smoking

My key worker sees it as a necessary evil and my shrink’s more worried about my weight. I saw my GP a while ago. I didn’t mention the smoking. I think I filled in a form that said that I smoke.

Smoking in mental health units over the years

About 20 years ago, after being really out of sorts, I got taken to the mental health ward at hospital. They had a smoking room with a ventilator or fan. You could smoke any time. So that was fine.

I’ve been in several times. Next time I was in, I was extremely depressed and self-harming and this kind of stuff. They’d built a new Mental Health Unit, or MHU, that had 2 courtyards and 1 of them allowed smoking. You could smoke outside and it wouldn’t waft in, and it didn’t really bother anyone in the courtyard. I thought that was pretty much ideal.

Sometimes the courtyard was open at all times, and other times it was locked up except at specific times so that staff could observe you. I think they had concerns about people escaping, so they had to have the staff monitoring everyone. I think it was every hour on the hour, so yeah, pretty crazy. And I think, I can’t remember, I had my smokes taken off me once but it’s a bit vague. 

About mid-2000’s I was kind of despondent about my situation and made a relatively minor attempt on my life, so they put me in the MHU for a while. Same thing happened 2 years after that. I ended up having a psychotic and violent episode. I ended up in there again after having this big episode. Apparently, it was schizophrenia, psychosis, and violence.

In 2009, I ended up on the unit maybe 3 times. I kept getting in trouble with the law – getting convictions. Once, I got arrested. I had no bail address, so they chucked me on remand in prison. When I got out, I was homeless for a while and got picked up by the Salvation Army. My key worker took me to the shrink and said, “Do you want to be in the unit?”, and I said, “I guess so”. Which could’ve been a bit of a mistake. So, they put me in the unit. That was when they banned smoking in MHU. They banned smoking on the property, so you weren’t allowed to smoke in the courtyard. You’d get let out to sneak round the corner away from the camera to smoke, otherwise you were supposed to walk off the property to a side street to have a smoke. And I felt quite lucky to be let out. It seemed ideal to have the courtyard system. But maybe every generation thinks they have the ideal system.

It would be good if there was some recognition that smoking or vaping or herbal cigarettes is something to help with people’s mental health.  Dad told me a story about one of his contemporaries who was advised by a doctor to take up smoking to help him with his anxiety. So, there’s that. So, banning it from mental health units around the country – what’s going to replace it? They don’t often allow you to use your cell phone in the MHU. Once, my nurse come in and said, “Oh you can’t talk on your phone.” Using your phone isolating, you have to hand it back in. So, those are some issues.

Smokefree 2025
Very low nicotine tobacco

One thing I’m worried about– the Māori Party or the Greens were talking about introducing the 5% nicotine compared to what we’ve got now.  I just don’t know how to start the day without being able to look forward to having a cigarette. I’d be surprised if it felt as good having that first cigarette of the day when you wake up a bit depressed or a bit hard to get out of bed.

I thought they were gonna say they’re going to drop it to 60% or 40%. Then they said 95% or 5% on the news or talkback. I was like, “What?! That’s a bit over the top.” The other stuff I’m not so worried about. I’d qualify to be somebody who’s already smoking and I’m well into the age group that will be allowed to smoke. But it would have been great if there’d been one of those longitudinal studies like they do in Scandinavia, so we had some results on it. I don’t want to be a guinea pig myself for it.

What if the number of outlets that sell tobacco were reduced?

I’d have to work around that ‘cause I only go into the city on a Friday. Mum got me into stocking up since the grocery store here closed. 

Were they talking about dropping it from, dropping it to 40 or 400? I don’t know exactly how it would figure out. I haven’t seen a map of the country with it. I guess it would make it easier to police. You’d have the regulars and you’d be showing your ID and all the rest of it, and it would make it harder for young kids to get hold of them. I don’t really see the advantage of corralling it in one place.



Previous Chapter
Next Chapter