Teuila is a 68-year-old Samoan woman who came to New Zealand in 1970. She has 5 adult children, 13 grandchildren and 3 great- grandchildren. Teuila is a trained social worker but retired to look after her mother.


I came to New Zealand in 1970 and I started having a family early, young – I was 18.    

I never smoked, even when I had my second child, but with my third child, I started smoking. That was in 1975. When I was carrying my third child, I liked smelling the smoking and it made me feel like smoking. I ate the Sunlight soap, too. I never forget that. I smoked, like, especially after lunch and breakfast, after a feed when I feel full, and when I feel like smoking. When I first started, about 1 packet lasted for the whole week because sometime I feel like it, sometime I don’t.

When I was working, especially when I was working hard, I just needed something to relax on. And also too, with my job, because it was so stressed, my work. I worked in a high-risk organisation with people they parole from prison and from the courts. I relied on smoking every time I feel stressed. Sometimes it was too much. It was too hard to leave smoking then because I was smoking 1, or 1 and a half, packets a day.

Now, I’m not smoking much. Depending on my mood, I smoke, over 2 days, a packet. I’m not a heavy smoker like other people. Sometimes I break the cigarette in half and I keep the other part for later. Sometimes I roll, so just sometimes maybe it’s 3 days for one packet. It costs me like, $60 for 2 days, maybe $200 a week. It is a lot of money.

First thing when I wake up in the morning, I have my coffee and my smoke early in the morning when I go to the toilet. That’s my routine. My coffee and my smoke makes me go to the toilet. But sometimes in winter when I feel cold, I don’t smoke, I go straight back to bed and try to ignore the smoke. 

I’m living with my daughter and her husband and their 4 kids. I’m the only one in the house that smokes. I don’t smoke beside them. I go down the road. I only smoke in the car just to wake me up when I’m driving if I feel tired. I don’t smoke in the car with the kids.

Quit attempts?

I quit for about 6 months about 2 years ago because all the boys and the girls at work, we were having a competition to stop smoking. One of the ladies from the Pacific health service came and we had a lesson every day. Like, every 2 days they got this thing to have a test on you. With those kinds of things, there’s no mucking around, you can’t say I didn’t have a smoke, because the test will say I’m smoking.

I just wanted to quit because I didn’t want my body to smell when I walk past people. Also, my clothes smelt. You know, when people smoking you can smell the smoke. People who don’t smoke, they easily smell it. It’s not good. You feel clean and smell nice when you stop smoking.

But, one of my friends is an old lady. She stopped smoking and then started getting sick. So, then I said, oh my goodness, I’d better start smoking again.

The last time I was quit, I was on the patch about 3 months and it was working good for me and then the lockdown – too much stress. That’s why I started again. It was just staying at home. I was bored. My daughter wouldn’t let me go anywhere, even to go shopping. She did the shopping for me. And they said, “Mum, you’re not going anywhere”. It made me angry. Every time I stressed, I would smoke just to relax.

I think I’m trying to quit smoking now. That’s why I cut down the smoke, like, 1 packet for 2 days.  But, some people really like smoking.  

Healthcare support to stop smoking

Most of the time I go see the doctor, they ask me and they offer me the patch. 

Tried vaping?

I did try the vape, but I don’t like it. I’d rather have a smoke instead. I’m thinking because of the oil – where’s the oil go? Do they go and get stuck in your chest? Smoking is just, you know, like normal. With the vape I think I might get sick, because the oil might get stuck in your chest. So, that’s why I don’t like that.

Taxing tobacco

I think it’s too much. If they add the tax on top of that, that’s too much. I’m trying to think about quit smoking because, at the moment, I’m not working anymore and I can’t afford it. Maybe I try my best to give up smoking because the price is too much for me.  

Legalising cannabis

I hadn’t heard about that. I don’t smoke marijuana. The reason I don’t smoke that kind of stuff is because I don’t know what’s gonna happen to me if I smoke that.

Hopes and dreams…

In 2015, when I worked with people on parole, it make me want to have something for myself to help my people. I thought, I’m gonna go learn something more to help people, what they need. So, I went to study for 4 years to become a social worker. I graduate like, 2 years ago. After that, my husband pass away – just after my graduation. And my mum was getting old – she’s 95, nobody looking after her – so I decided not to go to work and it’s my responsibility to take care of my mum.

To me, money is not important to me, but my mum is important to me. Whatever time she goes, that’s the time for me. Then, I can look for a job and maybe, hopefully, God will take care of me because I’m gonna be 69 this year. To me, even if I’m not working as a social worker at the moment, I always help family and give advice, especially kids in a couple. They try to break down and then I give advice and they back together. That kind of thing. I want to use myself to help people, what they need, you know, just encourage.


2 months later…

Last week I was sick. I’ve just come out of hospital. I’m no feeling well at the moment. It’s okay, but still, like, feel tired and I’m no interested for doing anything, like, no energy.

I’ve got heart problems and a problem with my skin, it’s itchy. I’m on, like, high blood-pressure medication at the moment. It’s an ongoing problem. When I went to hospital, they check everything. I’m worried – stress. I’m so stressed out at the moment.

I couldn’t smoke at the hospital, also because of my heart. I stopped smoking when I went to the hospital – like, two nights. I used to be on the patch but they didn’t give me any patch. They didn’t say anything about my smoking. 

So, I’m smoking hardly any at the moment. I’ve been in bed most of the time. Sometimes I went to smoke to get out from the room and have a coffee. I used to go for a walk early in the morning, but now – I just don’t feel like doing it.  Just like, relaxing.

Before, I was like 2 packets a day. I figure out it’s like $300-$400 a week for smoke, but now I’m smoking like 2 days – 2 and a half days for 1 packet. So, it’s cutting down. Or sometimes like 3 days for 1 packet because, at the moment, I’m broke. I’ve got no money. I’ve got no smokes.

I wake up in the morning – the first thing, I smoke with my cup of coffee. After that I just go to the bathroom, brush my teeth, and wash my face and hands.  Then go back to bed and sleep.  Maybe at 12, I just drink coffee. I used to smoke, after meals maybe 1, 2 smokes a day. 


I’m a little bit depressed. It just hit me, just sleep, sleep, sleep. I don’t attend church now, just tired all the time – don’t feel like going anywhere. I wanna stay in my bed and my room. But I feel different when I spend too long in a room. I’ve got different feelings and my head keeps spinning. So, I have to get out. That’s why I smoke. I just smoke and stay outside. Have a coffee, then I come back in my room. Sometime I just don’t feel like eating anything. I don’t feel hungry. I just have coffee.

My husband, he passed on almost two years ago, but it feels just like last week. Everything is, like, upside down in my life. Like something missing and you are, like, lonely, always thinking about the past and everything. It’s too hard for me to forget. 

The Church

The kids growing up and they do their own thing. I go to Church but sometime I can’t go. That’s the only thing I can do, just go and enjoy the singing. That’s the only thing to makes me happy, when I go meet my friends and people. Just get rid of everything and, you know – makes me happy. It’s the only place for me to go to make me relax. Some of them smoke, some they don’t. It’s only one lady smoking and three man’s smoking.

4 months later...

I went to the budget people. I am smoking because I’m so stressed at the moment. I got another family problem, so we talk about things like that.

On the weekend, we had a funeral. We giving to all the family so I’m glad it’s over. Another one coming from back home – Samoa. My cousin, she’s old. Oh well, it look like natural causes. Happen all the time, nothing we can do about it. That’s God decision, not us. We can’t do anything or do action without money you know, especially Pacific families. We put in money and food to help out the family.

I only smoke like 3, roughly, this morning because I run out, ha ha. When I run out, I get craving. The only thing for me to do is just go sleep, get rid of everything in my mind. And I get up, do nothing, just a coffee. Yesterday I smoke about 6 altogether.

Quit attempts

It’s a bit coming down, you know, dropping down. Not like before, but I’m trying to stop it. That’s my goal, to stop. Now I run out I think, oh well, maybe because you trying hard to get some smokes will make me settle. But what else to do?  There’s nothing you can do. You have to be strong. I’m so busy – make, you like, stop smoking. Discussion and things and visiting and I only need like, 1 for like, 2 or 3 hours. I’m gonna try on my own. The patches, they cost money and the chewing gum. Everything costs money.

Hiding my smoking

I don’t smoke in front of my kids. I don’t smoke in front of everyone. I have to find a secret place to hide myself, ha ha, so no one can see me. Sometime I feel embarrass. Like people they don’t smoke – they can smell the person who smoke. No matter what you do, they can smell. Even my family do. They said, “Oh Mum, you stink.”

When other people smoke, I know where they going for a break and I just try myself to ignore. I stay back with the family because they know where I’m going. I don’t want myself to feel embarrass in front of everyone. Just pretending I’m a good girl, ha ha. Then later on, everybody disappear and I just sneak somewhere and have a puff.

One of my friend is smoking. When she smoke, only if I go to her house, then I’ll smoke with her.  Most of my friends, they don’t smoke. I hate to smoke with them, especially when we go in the car ’cause no one can smoke. I have to respect them. I don’t smoke in their car or in their house. That’s why I quickly have a coffee and then I smoke on my way home.

Sometime you can see people don’t like someone smoking beside them. So that’s why I have to go away, not too close to people. They tell me they don’t like me coming next to them. I feel ashamed about that. That’s why I hardly smoke around them. When I go in my car myself, then I can smoke by myself.

Smoking within the Samoan community

A lot of Pacific people smoke. You know our people, I think just like my dad, he die when he had his last smoke. And he asked me to give a smoke, so I hold a smoke and give it to him because he’s old and he smoking all his life and I just want to make him happy. 

Some of the matai and church ministers smoke. Most of the man smoke. They not smoking in front of everyone. They all go to find somewhere to smoke. They only have smoke after church. Sometimes I don’t smoke because some people ask for a smoke. So, I just pretend to not smoking in front of them, ha ha. Because it’s so expensive! I said, “I don’t smoke anymore”, ha ha. I feel shame and I feel sorry when people ask. Because once I share with everybody and I came home with nothing, ha ha. So now I have to speak on my rule. I don’t smoke when I go there, only on my way home, so it lasts me for 2 weeks. I don’t want to run out when I need it.

Some older women they don’t smoke. To me, it’s the old lady’s choice because we can’t stop her. Some people get mad when people told ’em off. I’d rather leave her alone. It’s up to the person how she feel.

Tried Tongan tobacco?

I heard about that. But I lost my Tongan friend, he used to come and take care of my husband. He always give me some, but that time I hardly smoked those kind of tobacco. And then I keep it because I don’t like it.


We do kava for a special ceremony, like a welcoming ceremony. Some matai, they having gatherings together and they do the kava, because it’s like a medicine to them for their back or pain back, for relaxing muscles.

Counselling support

I’m happy because I just come back from the budget people. They book me to a special counselling. I told myself I can manage to deal with my loss, but I just find out it’s too hard. To me now, it’s good to let it out. Maybe you can manage, but sometimes you have to have some special professional people ’cause they know exactly what to do.  

Also, the good news, I’m moving – so I got my own space to do my own thing. So that’s the other thing that’s sorted. It’s little bit release the stress and it’s more good things coming one at a time.

My mum is too old. My whole body is not strong enough to take care of my mum. I go all the way there to take care of her every day. But I have to fix myself first – no use to fix somebody else but you got your own problems and I start run away with my problems. It’s like a new life, ha ha. It’s good for me to go and meet other people, make friends, and go out for a walk. I can walk to the shopping mall and look around, with no money, ha ha.

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