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.