Alna is a 30-year-old South African woman who came to New Zealand in 2016. She lives in Auckland with her husband and 4 children, ranging from 22 months to almost 8 years old.


I started smoking when I was about 14 or 15 in high school in South Africa. Both my parents smoked as did my older brother. Our neighbour’s son was the same age as my brother and he also smoked. So, we kind of just started testing it out together. It was just sharing one or two a day between us.

Our neighbour’s son bought cigarettes, but my brother and I – at that stage we didn’t have any money, so we just grabbed some of my parents’ cigarettes and they didn’t notice. As we got older, we would buy from our pocket money.

I was about 17 or 18 when I started buying packets, which would last me like a week. The moment I finished school, it became more. I would smoke a packet in 2 days and then later on it became a packet a day.

When I arrived in New Zealand I had to cut down because it was so expensive. I had to really try and spread them out. I got down to a packet of 25 every 4 days.

I’m down to about 9 per day. I wake up, make a cup of coffee and sit outside and have a cigarette. After that I’ll come in and pack the lunch boxes, get the clothes ready, wake the kids up, get them dressed and then I’ll go have a cigarette while they brush their teeth. After that I smoke when I feel (this is going to sound terrible), if I feel overwhelmed – like, where do I start cleaning or whatever… okay, just let me just have a cigarette first. I'm like, oh just let me have a time out with a cigarette, and then I can come back to what I need to do.  So, that’s like my self-regulating moment.

Coffee, that’s a trigger for me 'cause I always have a cigarette with a coffee, and I drink a lot of coffee. 


During and after lockdown I started smoking more. Now a packet only lasts about 2, maybe 3, days. I think it was ’cause it was a bit more stressful being at home constantly with all the children, and my husband was working from home. Everything was just a bit more of a mess. And you couldn’t really go out to go shopping and walk around and just get some fresh air.

I never really take my children to do all of those things because it’s a bit chaotic with four kids going to a shop. I think that contributed to smoking a bit more. I was trying to keep the kids quiet while my husband was on the phone or a video call.

Quit attempts

I stopped with my 4 pregnancies completely. I think that was a matter of mind over matter, because it’s my baby, you know.  

During one of those times, I phoned a helpline in New Zealand. They were all right. But, if I really had real trouble stopping and I wanted to quit I don’t think Quitline would have made a difference, to be honest. I mean they offered me a prescription for patches and this and that, which I obviously, didn’t take. I was never interested in taking anything. I wouldn’t ring them again ’cause I just have no intention of stopping.

I started smoking again right after my babies were born, because for me it’s not about, oh, I can't stop smoking. I don’t want to stop smoking. I enjoy smoking. I'm not thinking about ever stopping. I'm not gonna have any more children so I don’t need to stop. 

Healthcare support to stop smoking

I have only one doctor that I go to. They know I smoke, but it’s never been part of a discussion. I've never had issues with my chest or that kind of thing where they would say, “Oh, I can hear you’re a smoker”.

Tried vaping?

When I was about 19 or 20 years old, in South Africa, I tried an electric cigarette. “Electric cigarettes” is what they called them and they had, like, different flavours and things. But, it wasn’t my thing.

I haven’t tried vaping again. I don’t like the idea of vaping. To me, it’s chemicals that I feel are more dangerous than smoking dried leaves. Vaping is chemicals they put together to give you the desired effect. So, I don’t think that’s good for you at all.

Some people have replaced their smoking with vaping. To me, it’s not the same thing. To me, smoking is relaxing. I go to have a cigarette and it’s a nice time - I relax for that few minutes. A vape doesn’t do that. It’s like reading e-books instead of actually having a book in your hand.

The thing is - I don’t drink at all, like nothing. So, while other people relax with a glass of wine in the evening or whatever, I have a smoke to do that for me. It gives me time to think and plan while I'm having a cigarette.

Bans on where people can smoke …

I don’t smoke inside my house or car. I only smoke outside. I've never had the desire to sit inside and smoke. I enjoy sitting outside and being away from the hustle inside. 

I really just only smoke when I'm at home. I would rarely smoke when I'm visiting a friend. I will not smoke when I'm having a coffee with my friend at her house. When we go to a barbecue, I might have a cigarette.

I definitely agree with the ban on smoking in cars when children are in there. That is also one of the reasons I don’t smoke in my car or inside my home, because my kids are in my home. Just because I enjoy a habit doesn’t mean I'm going to expose or influence the health of my family. That’s a decision that I make. So, I'm completely on board with not smoking in the vehicle because I feel that the child doesn’t have a decision there.

Taxing tobacco

Thaaat is something that my husband often brings up because it’s so bloody expensive and it keeps going up. He wants me to stop smoking because it costs a lot of money. I can definitely see that if I had to take the amount of money in a month that I spend on smoking, I could buy clothing for my children, things like that – basic needs. I pay $36-something a packet every three days. It adds up very quickly – very, very quickly.

I don’t know why the cost is going up constantly because they're not putting up the price of any other habits like drinking and so forth. I feel that it’s kind of discriminatory against people that smoke. They're discriminating against people that smoke because they're not putting up prices of other people’s habits that are also not as healthy as they would want it to be.  Drinking causes way more health issues than smoking, I feel. So, to me, that’s discriminating against my right to be able to live and do the thing that I want to do.  And, I'm not influencing anyone else in my decision to smoke. So yeah, to me, that’s not right.

Smokefree 2025

I've heard of Smokefree 2025 but I don’t know that much about it.

I don’t think we should be judging people on their habits. Obviously, people I know who come to my home, know that I smoke. They can take it or leave it, this is where I live. But if strangers come, let’s say for a kids’ birthday party, I do feel very judged. That’s why, to be honest, I don’t smoke when there’s a birthday party. I shouldn’t be doing that. I shouldn’t be putting up something for others not to judge me. 

I do feel like in New Zealand, specifically, lots of people are very judgmental about, “Oh, don’t get the smoke here”, and “Oh, this is so bad”.  They wanna be very green, and, you know, not everything is green. 


What they do with cannabis doesn’t bother me much, ’cause it’s not something I do. My husband, who doesn’t smoke at all, gave me some info on how much money it would save the government. All the cases of people being charged for possession of cannabis and that kind of thing, takes up the time of our legal forces and it costs. But smoking it? I don’t really have an opinion because it doesn’t affect me and I don’t come into contact with it.



2 months later…


I’m good. We’ve had a lovely break away.  We went camping and now we’re back home, packing 'cause we need to move. Our landlord is selling the property. Luckily, we found a house, but now I’m smoking more.

The kids are at home the whole time, constantly messing about in the house, and I’m having to pack up and look for a house and we’re selling a property at the same time. So, lots of stress. Our landlord wanted to sell, and he said best if I stay on, but the uncertainty was killing me. I had to have things stable for the children.

I was smoking 8 or 9 a day – now, I’d be happy if I can have a packet over 2 days. So, I’m smoking 12 to 13 per day. That little bit more per day makes a big difference. It means having smokes for another extra day. And now the bloody price has gone up again by about $1. A dollar’s a dollar! I’m not happy about that but there’s nothing I can do about it. I’m too scared to change to anything else because I don’t want to buy something and then not like it. Then I’d feel like I’ve wasted my money. I don’t want to regret changing over to something else, but I most probably will have to eventually if I keep on smoking this much. 

I still get up and have my cigarette immediately with my coffee. The only thing that’s different now is, instead of just having 1 cigarette before I take the kids to school, I have at least 2. 

Intent to quit

No intention to quit. I don’t know what I’ll do the day that I really don’t have money to buy it but, at this point in time, I am going strong. I’m not a quitter, ha ha ha. I wasn’t raised like that, ha ha.

I have no means of trying to stop. I would like to go back to the amount that I did smoke before the holidays, and I’m sure the moment my kids start going back to school I will fall back into that routine.  

Health professional support to stop smoking

I went to see a gynaecologist. The first time I saw her, she went through my form and she said, “Oh, you’re smoking.” I’m like, “Yeah.” She’s like,No. I’d rather you have a glass of wine.I’m like,Yeah, I don’t drink at all.” Why would she say she’d rather I have wine? I don’t see that being more beneficial. Many health professionals have said before, ‘Having 1 glass of wine a day is good for you.’ I don’t agree. If I had to drink the amount that I smoke, that would definitely not be good for me. I just nodded and said, “Oh, okay.” She’s not going to change my mind. It’s not even worth getting upset about or debating it. It’s time I don’t have to waste.

Restrictions on receiving cigarettes from overseas

My mum sent me a parcel for Christmas from South Africa, with toys for the children, a bottle of brandy for my husband and a carton of cigarettes for me. She told me that she declared them. I said, "Okay, well I’ll most probably have to pay tax when it arrives here, but I’m okay with that.” So, I get my parcel and I was so damn excited. I say to my husband, “Here’s your drink.” The kids get their presents, but there’s no cigarettes. They took my cigarettes out of the box and discarded them! 

I phoned them up and the woman said, “You can bring cigarettes in by post, but by courier you need an importing licence for cigarettes.But the alcohol can come in!  I said to her, “Listen, I’m not importing it.”

I was just stunned that they would take the cigarettes and leave the alcohol. I was so upset because everybody got a Christmas present except me. It took me a while to get over it. I said to my mum, “If you’re going to send me cigarettes for a present, make sure you’ve got a licence.”

I’d still pay taxes and duties on top of the licence. They’re kind of really trying to make sure that no one does that, you know. That’s not fair.

4 months later...

I’m good. We’ve moved house. It was a big job, which caused lots of stress at times. But I’m very happy with more space and with each child having a bit of their own little space – makes a big difference, eh, in the whole dynamic.

We’ve had some rough times with my son at school, due to the changes. He has ADHD and autism and he’s high functioning. All the new things got too much for him. Last week was a terrible week for him. He had a lot of meltdowns. An example of one day – it might sound very extreme, but this doesn’t happen every day – he threw a toy at his sister and cut her eye open. Then he kicked a hole in the wall. Soon after, he drew a knife on me – which is the first time he’s done that. It’s very stressful managing that kind of thing, keeping everybody safe at the same time.

I had a meeting with the school to go over the risk plan that they’ve got in place.  I’m getting behaviour specialists to come and help me. They contacted me end of last week and are coming next week. Thank goodness! We’ve been on the waiting list for more than a year and a half. Hopefully they can help with some new strategies and ideas, just approaching it differently. So, I’m very positive on that side of things. But yeah, it does make me smoke a lot more ’cos I wanna take every little break I can. 


I definitely smoke a little bit more. A pack only lasts me 2 days now. But I want to cut down on the amount a day because it’s so bloody expensive. I think the price is still $37.50 from the dairy. I need it to last longer even if it’s just that extra day. But at this point, every time I feel like having a cigarette, I’m like, oh fuck it, have a cigarette now, who cares. We all live to a certain budget, to what your income is. If I don’t set myself a budget, I’ll be buying a pack a day which will affect either the grocery fund or something else, ha ha.

With stress, I just drink a hell of a lot of coffee and have my cigarette every time. The caffeine and nicotine is my way of getting more enthusiasm into my day.

Tried vaping?

Last week I watched a YouTuber – Dr Mike, a very attractive young doctor – very pleasant to watch, ha ha. His main focus is to educate people on their health and staying healthy. He said years ago, in the US, only a small percentage of teenagers were smoking. Today, you have a much larger percentage of teenagers vaping because vaping has been made out to be a healthier alternative, and that encourages children to smoke. Vaping’s like kissing, it always leads to something, ha ha. So, due to everybody saying, oh vaping, let’s vape, it has actually encouraged teenagers to smoke more, compared to when there was only cigarettes less teenagers smoked. He recommends that vaping’s not good for your health or that it could be bad for your heart, and this and that. But he doesn’t say don’t smoke at all, you know. He doesn’t encourage smoking, but he doesn’t tell you to never do it.

I’m not personally a fan of vaping. I don’t think it gives you the same effect – it’s not the same, it’s not as relaxing. I don’t smoke inside my house, whereas when you’re vaping it’s perceived like you can do it anywhere. So, there’s not really a time-out for me. I don’t think it would be such a break for me as smoking is now. When I have a cigarette, I’m sitting outside, having a little coffee and checking out my view. I do that for the time that my cigarette lasts, and then I’m done. It gives me an indication of my break time. But when you vape, there’s isn’t like a window of, oh, this is my relaxing time now. How many draws can you have of the vape before it stops? It doesn’t end you know. 

Smoking in the workplace

I’ve not worked in New Zealand. In South Africa I used to work in a hospital as a nurse and at your allocated break time, you’d have your cigarette. You can’t just walk away when there’s patients to be cared for. Before that I worked in construction, onsite. I would smoke in my container office that I shared with another girl, and she also smoked. If it was in an office setting, you would have gone out of the office. We used to say, if you don’t like the way it smells, don’t come in. Stand by the door and tell me what you want, ha ha. I didn’t feel like I was different or frowned upon, or anything like that.

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