Mahalia

Mahalia is a 30-year-old Māori/Tongan woman who lives in Auckland. 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. 

Lockdown

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.