Anaru is a 30-year-old Māori man living alone in a lower North Island town. He has a major spine injury made worse by his first doctor sitting on his results for over a year. Anaru is now on a benefit, still waiting for specialist care or surgery.


I started smoking when I was 14. My mother had just married a new person, and I was going through schooling stresses because I was put up to the smart class and that increased my workload. Then my new stepfather was, well, he was psychologically abusive. So, like, the stress plus being abused all the time sort of just led to smoking as a result.

My mother smoked, but she only really started smoking because my father – the person she was with before my step-dad – he was abusive to her for 7 to 8 years. She only started smoking ’cause she was being abused. As soon as she was out of that situation, she quit smoking straight away.

I came to the decision to smoke because I noticed people that were smoking were temporarily relieved, and I wanted some temporary relief. My counsellor at school was actually one of the ones that suggested I take up smoking. I was one of the only students that was allowed to smoke at school and not get in trouble. And, they wouldn’t take my cigarettes off me. I think it was ’cause they knew what background I came from and so they were, like, we’ll just let it slide because we’ll just make it worse if we open our mouth. I think they were stuck and they didn’t know what to do, so they just did nothing. People can only do their job with what they know. If you’re given a situation you’re not used to, then you don’t know what to do.

I’ve always bought my own. I've been 6’ 4” since I was 13, so when you're bigger than most adults the shop doesn’t really ID you. I started on tailies – well, they used to be really cheap. When they started hiking up in price, I moved to rollies. I smoke between 5 and 10 a day. 

I ended up leaving school when I was 16. It was when they were testing the new NCEA. I completed everything. I passed NCEA within a quarter of a year and then got told it was worth nothing. They said we had to still do School C if we wanted it to count. They were, like, oh do you wanna do the next year? I was, like, what's the point if they keep just taking everything off me? I just refused. At that point I needed to pay bills, so I went to work instead.

Since I've left school, everything’s just gotten more expensive and pays have gotten less. And so, like, the chances of actually completing something like that just went out the window. 

Quit attempts?

I’ve not ever quit by choice, it’s more the fact that financial situations dictate it. It’s more like being bullied into it. Like, if you can’t afford them, it’s better to quit for a bit than the alternative of trying to steal them.

I tried the gum. I've got like a box of the gum around here. It gives you the nicotine, but you got the same issues as other cigarette replacements products.  You’ve got nicotine in there, which is fine, but cigarettes are like 40 different poisons and so, like, when you’re only taking the edge off that one poison there’s still 39 other poisons in the back of your head going, you're not fulfilling this.

I've only really smoked as an anti-stress thing and then, like, quitting smoking doesn’t get rid of that stress instantly. If anything, that just adds another stress on top. Like, if one day all of my stresses just melted away, then I’d consider it. But, as long as I live in a world with stress, I don’t see myself quitting.

Healthcare support to quit smoking

If I see my GP or am at the hospital, they will ask about smoking but they like to keep it as a brief as possible. If I said, “No I don’t wanna do anything about it”, they just left it there. They don’t want to push that button. I think they’ve pushed enough buttons and they’ve realised that if they ask that question the wrong way, they get anger.

The thing is if the government has a goal in play, it’s not them that has to take the brunt of the fall, it’s all the people they told to go tell everyone to quit smoking.  They're the ones at the frontline, they're the ones that are gonna take the fist to the face.

And, the campaigns that I've been contacted by have been non-smokers telling me to quit! I don’t see why non-smokers are ringing me telling me to quit. I was really insulted when they did it. I didn’t even take their name, I think that that went straight out the window with my anger. 

Tried vaping?

I don’t see how vaping’s any better. All the people I know that vape, they all ended up with this, like, worse smoker’s cough than the smokers I know, and they ended up with the smoker’s cough within a couple of weeks of starting vaping. I didn’t see the point of taking up vaping when it seemed to me to be just as bad. I’ve had, like, a few puffs on it. I got given one of those vape pens, but it broke. I didn’t bother replacing it.

But yeah, like, it’s good for the distraction, for letting your hands do something, but it never really, well, you'd have a puff on it and you’d still want that cigarette.  So, it doesn’t really replace it. It’s just different. 

Tried home-grown tobacco?

I used to grow the stuff. There’s just a big problem – when you grow your own tobacco, you think it’s going to be like the tobacco at the shop, but it’s actually different. I know the flavourings they use and I can replicate that, but the process that the shop uses to get their tobacco to taste like it does takes about a year and a half. So, if you grow your own, after growing it and doing all that effort, you’ve still got to put a year and a half’s worth of effort to curing it and drying it, to get it into the state where you can smoke it – otherwise, it’s just like a cigar. Curing it, however, that’s the difficult part. I smoked home-grown for about a year, but yeah, that’s just not really the go if you don’t have a big plot of land to use. You’re allowed to grow tobacco, up to about a year’s amount for your household. You're not allowed to sell it. 

Bans on where people can smoke…

The thing is, before all of these bans, like the car one, all good people wouldn’t have done that anyway – it’s only disrespectful people that would.  So, they’ve brought out this law for everyone that smokes to change a couple of people that wouldn’t step out of their car for their kids. That shouldn’t be a cigarette issue, it should be a child-welfare services issue.

When that law came in, I barely knew anyone that would smoke in their car with their kids. Not because they're smokers, but because they love their kids and they wouldn’t smoke in the car with them or in the house. They'd go outside. They brought in this law that was pointless, because it was literally picking on a couple of people that they had in mind, where the rest of us would just step outside. 

Taxing tobacco

The tax is not to do with tobacco at all. It’s revenue collecting and poverty inducing. They wanted people to be in poverty and so they increased the thing they knew that their stress will take them to. They could choose for people not to be in poverty, but they’ve done nothing towards that, have they? Poverty doesn’t come out of nowhere; it is the result of actions and their actions spoke for people to be poor. It’s prosecuting people for a crime they haven’t committed.

Smokefree 2025

It just sounds like another bunch of bullies that are gonna make me quit. They never asked us if we wanted to be smoke-free. They just told us to be smoke-free. I’ve got a strong distaste for that.  

I don’t think they care about the people that are going to smoke. You know how the government is, they believe it’s okay for them to be cruel to one bunch of people to be kind to the rest. Well, they're sort of doing that with smoking. To be kind to the non-smokers and the people that haven’t taken up smoking, they're being really cruel to the smokers. It’s not giving a bad name to smoking, it’s giving a bad name to non‑smokers. It’s making them seem cruel.

I think their drive to have this campaign against cigarettes – it comes from money. How many billions of dollars have they made off this increase on cigarettes? How much of that went to cigarette-related health issues? Where’s the money going?

The simple fact is they wanted more money and they wanted someone that was a minority to blame, and that is smokers. Like, they were expecting to deal with a bunch of dumb people that would never be able to argue with them. But they didn’t realise that the rest of the world can see what they’re doing too, and not just the people they thought were dumb. 

Legalising cannabis

With tobacco there's a few more sides to it. You’ve got the tobacco company making money on it, they're one side of the argument. You’ve got the government making money and demonising it. And then you’ve got the public who’s split up into smaller groups. You’ve got the ones demonising it, the ones that are pretty casual about it and then the ones that like tobacco. So, there’s more angles on tobacco than there is with weed. With weed, you can pretty much go yes or no.

But like smoking, a lot of people have been making their livelihoods on demonising it and, once people have their meal ticket, they're never giving it up.  Their meal ticket has been anti-weed. I think they’re just gonna continue, because the people that had the biggest amount of say were the people that were demonising it in the first place.

My hope would be that anyone that needs access to it can afford to access it.  So, if you needed it medicinally, they're not gonna charge you $1000 every time you need it.  But, what I expect to happen is that the government’s going to try to keep it illegal for everyone except for the medical people and then they're gonna marginalise that down to: if you are rich enough to afford this amount at this price, we’ll give it to you, but if you’re not you can die a painful death.

You know how they said “no” on the referendum? That just plays into that, because now they can bring it out as medicine and demonise it at the same time.

One of my friends is Stage 4 cancer and he got signed off to have it. He was hoping to make a month’s worth last a year, but he couldn’t even afford a month’s worth. They didn’t bring it out for the people that are sick, they brought it out for rich people’s kids that are sick. They didn’t bring it out for the sick ’cause the general public can't afford it.

They never give people the full information about what they're voting for before they go in, and so we’ve got all these blind people going I know better about weed. No! They’ve spent 30 years demonising it. To make it fair, they needed to do 30 years of promoting it. They don’t tell people all the facts, they just pretend – pretend they have a voice, but we’re not actually gonna listen to it and we’re not actually gonna give people the real information beforehand.



2 months later... 

Smoking’s more expensive so I’ve cut my habit down by half, but not really by choice. It’s more like bills are more important.

I’m only smoking about 2 or 3 tailies a day. They’ve sort of priced loose tobacco out of reach of a beneficiary’s wage. They purposely done that.

I have my first tailie probably about an hour or so after waking up. My second is just after lunch, then just before bed. I’m trying to keep my body from stressing out from having no nicotine, but not saturating it.  I think it’s just to stop my body going into shock. Fourteen years of smoking is a bit of time.

Those smokes give me stress relief. It feels like taking a weight off. The problem is, the more the Government is anti-smoking, the more pressure they’re putting on smokers. And that increases the weight, which increases the relief. So, they’re actually making the problem worse.

It’s like, if you’ve got rights and someone all of a sudden decides to ignore your rights, you’d want to fight for your rights, right? It makes me want to fight them. And I don’t even know how. It makes me feel like I’ve got no rights. They’re purposely taking them away from one group of people. 

Quit attempts?

Nah, only by force. The patches leave weird rashes on your skin. I’ve tested this. I slapped one on the wall and half an hour later I pulled it off and it stripped 10 layers of paint off the wall. So, what would that do to us?

The gum, that’s covering one side of smoking, but cigarettes are more than just nicotine. You’re getting the nicotine but not the stress relief you get from a cigarette. Cigarettes are more than just one thing.

Tried Vaping

I’ve tried vaping before, but I found a), it was just as expensive as smoking, and b), it’s the same as the gum. It covers one of the poisons, but it’s not cigarettes.  It ended up being as expensive as cigarettes because I was vaping non-stop.

I’ve got a limit to how much I’d smoke. If cigarettes were free there’s still a limit to how much I can take in, and that would be my limit. If price wasn’t an issue, I’d get as much as I need and then stop. Back when I could afford it, a 50 gram would’ve lasted me 2 ½ weeks. That’s why I don’t understand why they attack smokers like this, because it’s like not everyone’s a 50 pack a day smoker. 

Health professional support to stop smoking

It’s about a year since I used a health service. They asked me about stopping smoking. I just got insulted because they kept getting non-smokers to ring me and ask why I hadn’t quit. So yeah, I let them have some words. 

4 months later...

I finally got my disability allowance accepted by WINZ, which only took about 6 years. Ended up with a big apology from the manager. It got me a bicycle.

I’m still smoking around 3 or 4 a day. I still don’t want to, though.

I ended up going a week without any so I could get a packet of rollies and make that last 2 weeks. That way it lasts a little bit longer and is a bit cheaper.  With the little bit of back-pay I got, it let me be a week ahead.  That gave me the ability to make a 30gm last 2 weeks instead of buying 2 packets of 20s a fortnight, which ends up being more expensive than 1 packet of rollies.

Intent to quit

It’s not that I’ve got no intention to quit. It’s that, if I’m stressed, quitting’s the last thing on my mind.  

Stress and smoking

If I’m not stressed out or rushed, I usually go about 2 hours before I have my first cigarette. But if I’m stressed out, I’ll wake up and have one right there. Stress is definitely the biggest factor. If I’m not stressed at all, I could almost quit on the spot. But if I’m stressed out, there’s almost no chance because the alternative is worse.

I didn’t want to be injured in the first place. They treat you like you’re scum, that’s probably the biggest factor of stress. It’s a constant. Without the Government’s assistance and getting on board with poor people, they’re pretty much dooming me to a life of a beneficiary. That’s not a good life, and that stresses me out. I don’t wanna be a beneficiary my whole life.

There’s 2 types of stresses. There’s the good stress that motivates you to do better, and then there’s the inescapable stress that you cannot get out of. And, what the Government’s doing, is they’re using the excuse of good stress equals good results. But they’re not calculating the other type of stress, and that’s the stress they’re giving people. They’re giving them inescapable stress to be fair to the small percent that aren’t on the benefit.

A good stress would be: I have food in my cupboard – I am hungry and that stress will make me cook something to eat. A bad stress would be: I am hungry, I will go to the cupboard and there’s nothing to eat and there’s nowhere I can go to get food. That’s a bad stress. Stress can be a good thing if there’s a way to get out of it. But if you’re starving people, that’s not a good stress because they’ve got no way to get out of it.

They’ve increased how much you can earn on benefit before taking it away. It used to be $90, now it’s $160. They only include that on the main benefit. If you’re on the invalid benefit that doesn’t count, they didn’t raise it. So that’s me out, that doesn’t help me at all.

Good stress would be giving people on the benefit actual opportunities to leave or to better themselves.  They provided funding for school kids to do trades after school, but no funding for people on the invalid benefit, which is just rubbing it in my face. Nothing changed for me. They need to make sure there is actually places that people who are invalids can get work, before saying the answer’s go get work. 

Healthcare provider negligence

It’s taken like 3 months for me to get transferred to a new doctor. I hope they’re better.

The last one wasn’t listening to me. I complained and they got even worse. My specialist, for my spine, sent my results to the doctor and she didn’t tell me the results until over a year later. My results showed one of the disks had slipped out of place and was sticking out of my back. So, I laid a complaint against her. They’re not allowed to judge you for that, but they can just not see you.

I got stuck between a rock and a hard place with a doctor that didn’t want to see me and was abusing me for trying to find a new doctor. To make it worse it was the marae health provider - a charitable trust. They’re supposed to take care of Māori people, yet they’re treating everyone like they’re nothing. She’s registered to deal with people with mental health problems and to help with ‘transitioning’ people for this area. All the people that are different to normal, get the biggest bitch on the planet, and they were a bunch of fuckin’ racist wankers. It’s double standard – you get people that hate people, looking after people.

I think it’s tied in with my social position. Because if you’re a worker, you could walk into that same doctors and you’ll get an appointment. But if you’re on the benefit, oh nah, we can’t see you for 4 weeks.

Health provider support to stop smoking

They’re a little bit cautious of ringing me now – I sort of flipped a lid at them.  They shouldn’t get non-smokers to, like, bug me to quit. Ever since I told them off, they haven’t contacted me.

Tried vaping?

It covers the action, but cigarettes are more than just nicotine. You know when you’re sitting around an open fireplace outside, and you get that nice, smokey smell on your clothes. It’s that type of satisfaction you get from cigarettes that you don’t get from a vape. On top of that, I felt that vaping felt worse in your lungs. It almost burnt, like burning the inside of your lungs.  

Tried homegrown tobacco?

I used to grow it. The problem is, if you want to smoke it the year you grow it, you’re gonna be smoking something that tastes like a cigar. If you want it to taste like the tobacco you get from the shop, it takes almost a year and a half after harvest to get it like that. I don’t mind homegrown, but it takes too long to make it. 

And I don’t trust this area. The last person that lived here (it’s a block of flats) used to grow tobacco and he kept having his plants taken. So, I haven’t bothered growing anything that isn’t super-hot chillies, ha ha. I’m growing Carolina Reapers. They can steal as many of them as they want, ha ha. All I have to do is walk outside and wait ‘til I hear screaming, ha ha.


6 months later

I've buggered my hip. I got a new bicycle and started to bike a little too far, and the ligament in my hip popped and now it’s not working right.

I’m smoking between 3 and 6 rollies a day. My first one would be probably about an hour or 2 after I wake up.

I’ll continue to smoke as long as it’s not $1000 a pack. 

Tried vaping?

I had a few puffs on a friend’s vape. I find the vapour to be painful. As in, your body doesn’t wanna hold it in because it knows it shouldn’t. With a cigarette, you can take a puff on a cigarette and hold your breath and you don’t feel like you have to get it out. But with the vapour, it makes your body want to vomit it out. He had it turned all the way down and it was only 3 milligrams, which is the weakest one with nicotine in it. I couldn’t even hold it in for a little amount of time – it just came straight back out. I think it’s partly to do with my body’s used to processing smoke, not vapour. 

Other nicotine products

I know there’s gum, mint, patches, and vaping. The problem I've got with the nicotine patches and the gum and stuff like that is, when you have a cigarette, it is not just nicotine you're getting. You see the problem – replacing that with something that’s not the same thing? It’s like saying, “We’ll replace this cigarette with 5% of the cigarette.” It doesn’t really work. The thing as a whole, is the thing. You can't take 5% of it and say, “Oh, here’s the replacement.” And it’s a different form. When you smoke cigarettes, it’s not a liquid you're inhaling.

Tried oral nicotine pouches?

No. That would probably drive me insane. I can't even have piercings in my mouth 'cause I’d just sit there playing with it until I rip my tongue.

Tried heat not burn products?

Is that the vape pens but you put tobacco in it? They look like a vape. No, I don’t know.

But why do I have to have their purified form of nicotine when all I want is a cigarette? It shouldn’t be that difficult. I shouldn’t have to get machines to deliver me this thing. I feel most of them are just a marketing ploy. They’ve got no therapeutic value to them. It’s just for some rich dude to make some more money on top of people’s smoking habits.   

Smokefree 2025 proposed policies

Low nicotine tobacco nicotine cigarettes

That’s just disgusting! I’d end up replacing 1 cigarette with 2 cigarettes. So, you're gonna smoke like 3 or 4 whole packets to replace that 1 cigarette? So, they’re actually making the problem worse 'cause you're taking in a hell of a lot more carbon. You're gonna get a whole bunch of angry junkies that are gonna burn the shop down. Look what happened with the tax – the second they started raising it, all the dairies had to get protection because they started getting robbed. What's gonna happen when they start giving them inferior tobacco? They're gonna get robbed twice as hard.

If they start reducing the nicotine and making it really difficult to get tobacco, I’d just get back into growing it. It’d be really hard to stop people growing it. Tobacco makes seeds in the millions and, once it’s there, it’s hard to get rid of it 'cause all the seeds are through the soil. People can start growing it on government land outside parliament and they wouldn’t be able to get rid of it.

I'm not trying to reduce. Everyone’s trying to make me reduce it and that’s not the problem. I’ll reduce it at my rate. But everyone’s just forcing different forms of nicotine on me. I don’t want that. I just want a cigarette without being persecuted.

It’s disturbing. I take it that when they bring this in, they're gonna keep this high, giant price-tag on them? They're obviously not gonna get rid of that 'cause they're making a hell of a lot of tax off it.

Register of people who smoke; licensing and reducing number of tobacco outlets

So, they’d treat it like dope? Like how America treats their weed?

Having so few shops – that’s a bit unfair on people that can't walk far.

Prohibition doesn’t work. It just creates illegal forms of it and gives the power to the gangs. Labour really seems to like their isolation of minority groups. It’s creating another class – you’ve got normal people who get rights, and then the tobacco class who get treated differently. That’s not human rights.

They shouldn’t have stressed people out in the first place by giving them unfair barriers. It used to be as simple as, I'm stressed out, I need a cigarette, I go to the shop, I can provide this. Now you want a cigarette, you’ve gotta get through 50 people just to get the okay. Nah, that sounds like too much hassle.

The gangs will start making it and charging weed prices for tobacco. You’ll just be putting money in the hands of gang members and illegal forms of it. Why go to the shop and through all the hullabaloo to get half a cigarette’s worth of nicotine when you could go to the gang around the corner and buy a packet? It’s just making the problem worse.

Whoever the hell came up with the idea is not in touch with reality. It’s not encouraging current smokers to knock it off. It’s being cruel to current smokers in the hope of stopping future people taking up smoking, and it’s not proven – it’s not even guaranteed. It’s like trading something that is real for something that is fake.

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