Mahalia is a 30-year-old Māori/Tongan woman who lives in a coastal town in the North Island. She works in the retail industry and is a caregiver. Mahalia is married and has 4 children.


I started smoking at the age of 14. I didn’t smoke every day, it was just socially.

My parents weren’t really happy about it but my mother ended up letting me smoke under conditions – I could only have 4 cigarettes a day and I wasn’t allowed to smoke in front of my grandparents. It wasn’t until I was maybe 18 that I was smoking 10 to 12 cigarettes a day, tailormade and rolls. That was it until I was 26. 

Quit attempts?

Every year, when I smoked, I tried to quit. I tried Quitline, nicotine patches, the gum and Champix. Quitline was really helpful, I just didn’t have that much time. I don’t think the patches helped. I felt like every time I had them on, it made me want to smoke more. I had cravings, but I was also just drinking more. I had really bad side effects with the Champix, though I don’t know if it was the Champix. I think it was just the quitting – you have mood swings. I was always tired and had nightmares, although I just thought that was just from not getting enough sleep.

The gum was gross.  I thought it was like normal gum – you could just chew it. But you have to chew it and then place it on the side of your cheek. So just having something on the side of your cheek all the time was a bit annoying. The taste was fine, it was just when you’ve got something in your mouth you tend to want to chew it.

I even quit cold turkey. I think that was when I was 28. That was the longest I stayed quit – for 2 years. I quit for 4 years once after I was really sick. So, in the whole 4 years, 2 years of it was cold turkey. I didn’t ring Quitline then. I just quit everything and decided to not smoke.

Quitline tells you to write down what it is that you’re doing while you’re having a cigarette, to get into the habit of figuring out why it is that you have a cigarette? Would it be stress or is it a habit? I learnt that mine was a habit, ’cause I could go without having a cigarette during the day, but it was just always in the morning. I matched my cigarette with going to the toilet. If I didn’t have a cigarette in the morning then I wasn’t able to do poos. So, that became a habit.

I didn’t enjoy smoking cigarettes at all. I started back up again because I went back to fulltime work – now, for me, it’s enjoyable.

We just smoke rollies now because that’s all we can afford. I smoke about 10 a day. So, there will be a point when I want to quit again, because it’s expensive. But maybe I need to figure out a different thing to do. My husband has tried heaps of times too. He’s actually quit longer than I have.

Tried vaping?

I tried vaping but then I heard all these horror stories. I liked vaping. I could just have a puff here and there when I wanted to. I didn’t necessarily have to go outside, and it doesn’t stink, and it doesn’t give you bad breath, and it’s way cheaper. But now, it’s like, ‘Oh, I don’t want it to blow up in my pocket’. I was lying next to my friend when she was charging her one, ’cause we had the same vaping machine. This was about 3 or 4 years ago, and hers went really hot and she burnt her two fingers. I think that machine got recalled due to a manufacturing error or something. We took that back and they said you can only leave it on charge for so long, but that’s another thing too – the battery wouldn’t last long. And then you’re having to spend more money. That was one recommended by a health organisation that was trying to get us to quit. 


I enjoyed lockdown actually, to be honest. I liked it. I still had to work through lockdown, so nothing really changed for me. I’m a caregiver for my mother-in-law and I also work in retail. I did actually smoke less during lockdown because I had a timeframe to get to places and to do things. 

Taxing tobacco

I don’t think it’s working at all. Like, I’ve been around a few people that grow their own. The taxes have made more people want to grow it. 

Bans on where people can smoke…

Me and my husband smoke, but there’s no smoking in the house. We have a designated smoking area outside. No smoking in the cars either. But, we’ve always been like that.

We have four children, aged 16, 13, 11 and 5. So, the ban on smoking in the car with children there, I think it’s great.

Smokefree 2025

I like it, but I don’t think it’s going to work. 

Legalising cannabis

I didn’t like the referendum because it wasn’t thought through properly. I thought that they just rushed the process. So, I’m kind of glad it didn’t go through, but I do, in the future, want cannabis to be legal. It’s not ’cause I do it. I don’t personally use it. I just think it would lessen the stress on people who use cannabis for medicinal use.



2 months later…

I still smoke, it’s gone up. I think it’s increased. I smoke 12-14 cigarettes a day now. As soon as I open my eyes, I want a cigarette. That’s the first thing I do, is have a cigarette. I don’t even wash my face.

I’ve just had so much on. We’ve been full on with work and life. It’s stress. And I really want to lose weight as well ‘cause I’ve packed on weight I can’t get rid of. I’m just being lazy probably. So, if I’m hungry, I’ll have a cigarette which you’re not supposed to, but it’s the easiest thing to curb my appetite.

Black market

I’ve heard of places where you can buy cheaper cigarettes but they’re out of town. I’d just spend the extra $2 or $3 on gas, trying to get there. So, there’s no point. 

Vaping regulations

We don’t vape, but I think it’s a good thing. I still think it’s a bad habit. Like, it’s an alternative to smoking cigarettes but it’s still not a solution. But now there are lots of devices, and they’re certified and there’s more information on it.

My sister has just started vaping and she’s a chronic smoker. She can’t go without a cigarette. So, to see her trying it I think maybe it will work.  She’s fully vaping now, but she did that because she had a big health scare not too long ago. So, it’s either vape or…

Quit Strong Campaign

I think they’re good. They make me think that I need to quit. More so, it’s the cost. I think they’ve gone up a dollar more. If the cost wasn’t an issue, I wouldn’t think about quitting at all. Like, the health factors are still there. I still think like, oh no, but that’s along with other things too. 

Health professional support to stop smoking

Every time I visit the GP, even the nurse - she’ll ring every 3 months to say, ‘Hey, do you know we offer this and that?’ I think it’s on their database that I smoke. So, she calls and always offers support and I just tell her I’ve thought about it. I’m just not ready yet. If I have a really bad health scare or I can’t afford them, I’d probably quit. That’s the only two things. 

Bans on where people can smoke…

Banning smoking in cars with people under 18

We have two vehicles, and my partner and I don’t smoke in either of them. Even when the children aren’t even in the car, we still don’t smoke.

I’ve grown up with asthmatics. I’m lucky my children aren’t asthmatics. My nan was and even when you weren’t smoking in the car, she could smell it and it would give her an asthma attack. That’s why we learnt not to smoke in the cars or in the house. So, it’s been a habit from early on and now we stay like that.

4 months later…

From an early age, the majority of my family members smoked cigarettes. I can only recall 1  person that didn’t smoke, which was my nanny. It was something they would do on a regular basis. Smoking in the houses and everywhere – it was like the normal.

Quit attempts

I have thought more about trying to quit. I’ve had a look at some avenues to try and start. There is a place here. I’ve forgotten the name so it probably didn’t resonate with me. It’s a Māori advocate group. I looked on their website but then I got distracted and I didn’t follow through with the query.

Every time I light a cigarette, I say, man, I need to quit, but I still don’t. It’s the inhaling of it, whereas the patches, you just stick it on, and it administers the nicotine. I’m obviously addicted to the nicotine, but it’s the putting the thing to your mouth – it’s a habit. I can’t go number two’s without having a cigarette, so I would have to find a new habit. I’d have to teach my body new habits like, maybe, instead of having a cigarette I could have a coffee or a glass of water.

Stop-smoking campaigns

I haven’t seen any quit-smoking campaigns, even when I’m on my phone. We don’t watch TV. The only time when I heard a quit-smoking campaign was the local Māori service on the radio. A nurse called saying they were doing a survey of all of the district health board’s patients that have said they smoke. She just said, “Are you still smoking? How many cigarettes? Do you know what you can get?”. That was pretty much it. I don’t understand why they don’t really offer you more to kick your addiction.

Health professional:
Support to stop smoking

I’ve had a recent appointment with my normal GP. I’ve got to go for surgery, for a cyst to be removed off my ovary. I need to quit before I have surgery. I’m not to have a cigarette for 24 hours before. They’ve offered me patches and Champix. I was offered Champix over 8 years ago and I didn’t take it ’cause of all the risk factors. But that’s when I quit cold turkey.

She said there’s vaping, but she said that’s not a safe way either.  It’s sure as hell cheaper than cigarettes. She said the nicotine patches and gum are scientifically proven to help more than a vape would. And, she said there’s no proper scientific research about vaping – it’s more what other people prefer.

Health professional:
Lack of cultural awareness

Over 6 years ago I had a cyst, on my left ovary, that burst. They took the whole ovary out and now there’s a cyst on my right ovary. I don’t understand it. At least it’s not cancerous, so that’s good news.

The gynaecologist said they would look at removing the cyst or do a full hysterectomy. Anything could happen and it makes me think about other stuff, like, our baby is 6 now so what if we have 1 more? This might be the last time.  

They didn’t offer anything else. There’s no, “Do you need to speak to someone about it?” Like, it’s big. It’s serious losing the bits that make you a woman. But they’re like, “Oh well, we’re just going to take it out. You’ll stay maybe 1 or 2 nights and then you can go back to your life.” I still think I’m fairly young, I’m not 40 yet.

And the gynaecologist doesn’t know you from a bar of soap except for reading your file. There needs to be other alternatives to help numb the pain because you feel abnormal when you talk about those things, especially in the Pākehā world. They don’t make you feel like it’s normal to feel down, to feel what you feel. I said, “When it’s removed, do I get the choice as to what happens to it?” He just looked at me. He made me feel weird for asking. I asked because that’s a part of me. Even though normally you wouldn’t have something growing, it’s still part of my body and it’s me. I know it’s not a baby, but I just want to know what will happen to it.

I also said, “I had a cyst on my left ovary, then I got one on my right. What if you remove it and I get the cyst somewhere else?”

I get that in their job they see many different kinds of people and many different vaginas but, it’s still personal! Surely, they could take the time get to know you first, instead of, “Alright, get on the bed, open your legs”. It’s insensitive.

Before you go in, you do a questionnaire. Why ask what ethnicity I am, why ask where I come from and my iwi when you’re not going to take it into consideration?  

It kind of made me smoke even more. Usually, it’s like 18 cigarettes a day but now it seems like I’m smoking more. The more they tell me I can’t smoke, the more I want one. I’ve just got to stay positive.

Tried vaping

My friends and my sister, who was a chronic smoker, has been on her vape for 4 months and she loves it. She doesn’t know why she didn’t do it any sooner.  She doesn’t smell of cigarette, she’s got her taste back, she’s not using her asthma puffer as much as when she was smoking.

Black market cigarettes

They’re around and people even sell cigarette butts out of the ashtrays. I’ve known a few people who have grown their own tobacco. They probably offer people to try it, but most people are like, “Oh I don’t like it”. I’ve never tried it.

Smokefree 2025

I like how public places and schools are smokefree, and I like how you get an instant fine if you’re caught smoking with minors in the car – all of that.

What if the government banned filters? 

I wouldn’t want to smoke. I can’t smoke with no filter. I would probably just make my own – like, you can use the cardboard off the Zig-Zag but it doesn’t taste as nice as it would if you had a filter.

I’ve seen people roll their tobacco in newspaper and brown paper bags. My koro lost his smoking pipe so he used, like, rice paper – I think it was a brown paper – to roll his tobacco. But that’s just the lengths people go to because that’s how much of an addiction it is – ’cause it is really a bad addiction. Like me for instance, as soon as I open my eyes, I need a cigarette. I don’t wait, I don’t even wash my face. That’s bad, isn’t it.

What if there was only low or no-nicotine tobacco?

Personally, I think it’s good. I’d have to quit. But, as far as the community, you will just have a lot of grumpy people, ha ha.  But sometimes if you can’t see it or it’s not there, people tend to carry on. They’ll get used to it. Like how they’ve gotten used to no smoking in bars. And we’ve had pre-warnings. We’ve known about 2025 Smokefree for years now so it’s not a big surprise.

My mum doesn’t want to quit. She’s 76 now, and she loves smoking cigarettes. It is detrimental to her health, but she hasn’t had anything to do with her health that’s got anything to do with smoking cigarettes. She seems to think that’s what keeps her alive.

Some of my friends and relatives say it’s kind of euphoric for them, you know. It gives them a good feeling as soon as they inhale the smoke and blow it out. And one of my cousins thinks it gives her a boost of confidence. If there’s no nicotine, I think it would be detrimental to their mental health because they think it’s helping them. It’s a coping mechanism. I hope that there’s going to be a substitute. It won’t work for everyone, ’cause we’re all different. And then of course there’ll be more crime. There’ll be positive impacts on people and then of course there’s negatives and the negative will always outweigh the good that it’s doing.

Like for me, I’d be forced to quit because there’s no other option. If it happens and was really detrimental to my mother’s health then I would be fighting for those types of people to be allowed to choose to quit or not. The more I think about it, it’s hard.

Previous Chapter
Next Chapter