Amber is a 29 year-old Pākehā woman who lives in the lower North Island. She is a full-time mother caring for 4 children – 2 of whom have autism.


I started smoking when I was 25, 26, so I’ve been smoking about 4-5 years.

I was put off smoking a lot when I was younger because my family always smoked around me when I was a kid. I was very anti the idea of any of it. I didn’t like how they were acting with it, and I had asthma. It wasn’t until I was an adult and everyone I knew was smoking and I was like, oh well it can’t be that bad. I gave it a go and ended up liking it, and then got addicted. 

I really like the relaxation of the first morning’s cigarette and the mindset that it puts me into - to be able to start my day off in a good way. I wake up at about 6.30am and probably have one within 10 minutes of getting out of bed, which is pretty quick. I smoke between 15 and 20 a day, depending on how bad the day is. 

It’s been worse lately. Three months ago, my partner at the time assaulted me and I had to get the police involved. He’s gone, but definitely, 100%, the amount I was smoking through that time was so much more than what I would smoke on a regular basis. I’m still going through court. I’ll get a phone call saying, “You have to come in and give evidence.” It’s a lot of extra stress.

There are some mornings I wake up to the children all through the house screaming and fighting with each other and I think to myself, I don’t even want to get out of bed to go and have a smoke – I just want to have a smoke right now. So, definitely, times of high stress exacerbate it.

Quit attempts

I quit for about 2 months, but I didn’t like it. Does that make sense? I had absolutely no money to be able to buy any smokes or anything else to help me. I’ve got 4 children. Their needs come before anything else. If I don’t have the money, I just can’t buy smokes. And that was why I gave up ’cause it was obviously something I couldn’t afford. I was just like, well, this is how it has to be. 

I went cold turkey. It was difficult. I experienced cravings and irritability and being grumpy. I had a few mornings where I was really, really bad and I’d feel quite sick. That’s why I think I went back to it after a couple of months. I realised that I just enjoyed smoking more than I liked not smoking. I actually got quite sick in the beginning of starting back up and then everything came right.

Right now, if somebody gave me a valid reason why I should quit, or another option, something I could do instead, I would be willing to try it. Otherwise, I’m like, why?

Healthcare support to stop smoking

They’ve approached me time and time again about quitting – you should do this and you should do that. I’m the type of person that if somebody tells me I should do something, it makes me not wanna do it even more. I’m a bit of a stubborn one, ha ha.

I’ve told them to leave me alone about it. I said to my doctor, “Look, I’ve given up before and I didn’t like it. I didn’t enjoy it. I wasn’t happy. I’d rather be happy and just, like, even cutting back would probably be beneficial.”  So, he wants me to do that. I said “Okay, I can try that for you, if that’ll make you happier. But, just let me be is the better option to get me to quit than to keep bugging me about it.”

I said, “I didn’t want to come in here and have you tell me you want me to stop doing something – especially if it’s something that I don’t see as affecting my health that badly” – ‘cause all my health tests and things come back fine.”

Then he was like, “Okay, I’ll leave you alone about it until you mention it.” And I’m like, “That’s a good idea.”

But the reason why I’m not currently cutting down is due to the domestic violence, basically. That put me through hell. That put my kids through hell.

I haven’t seen any stop-smoking ads on TV, not at all. To be perfectly honest, the non-smoking ads, even the pictures on the cartons of cigarettes – that does absolutely nothing.  You look at it and you’re like, that’s a gross picture.  Or you look at the ads and you’re like, that’s a bad ad.  But no matter how personal it is, they really don’t do anything to make me think, oh I should quit.

Tried vaping?

I’ve tried vaping, but I just never found a juice that gave me the same relaxation effect that I feel from smoking that first smoke of the day. It stopped the cravings. I didn’t feel like having a smoke or anything, but there was something missing about it. It didn’t give me that nice relaxing, calming feeling that I enjoy about smoking so much, that brings me to a place where I’m happy.

Because I still craved that first cigarette of the day, I would still end up going and having it. So, I’ve used them both – smoking and vaping, and I’ve tried just vaping.

I heard they’re changing the law so that you can only get tobacco and menthol flavours and you can’t get any more fruity flavours? If you’re still gonna be able to get the fruity flavoured ones through specific vaping shops, that’s a really good idea. That way, they’re taking it away from being that accessible to younger children.

Tried home-grown tobacco?

I have once. It’s meant to be illegal to buy from other people, but somebody offered me some once. ‘I grew this in my backyard, here have a try of this.’. I did not like that one bit. It just made my throat dry. It was almost like my throat was feeling like it was bleeding. 

Bans on where people can smoke…

There’s no smoking inside. Outside or, in an absolutely worst-case scenario, if it’s the middle of the night and it’s pouring with rain and I’m awake for one reason or another, I will shut my room off and have a smoke in there. But other than that, not in the rest of the house, not around the children.

Nobody’s allowed to smoke in my car. That was my pet hate as a child – my parents smoking in the car with me. I remember being in the car and not being able to wind the windows down and being stuck in there with the smoke. My asthma as a child was always set off by it. My eldest daughter has asthma. So, I don’t like doing it with my children. And I tell everybody that nobody’s allowed to smoke in my car, and they’re just, “Okay, that’s fine. But you’re a smoker.” I’m like, “No, mate, you’re just not allowed to smoke in my car.”

Banning smoking in cars is a good law. It’s definitely not fair on the children to have them forced into an area with smoking, especially in a car. Most parents that I know who smoke, they pull their car over to the side of the road, step out, have a smoke there.

I think that there’s gonna be a heck of a lot of people that are gonna get caught out. A longer period of amnesty would’ve been good, or have a lot of education on the fact that you cannot smoke in your car when there’s a child in there. A $50 fine is definitely going to be a kicker. I’m not sure whether a fine was the best option. But hopefully, it will deter them. Depends if it gets policed properly. They already have a lot of other things that they need to police properly, and running around after people who are smoking in their cars is just an added thing to deal with. Oh god, thinking about it ­– that’s gonna be difficult to police full-stop.

Taxing tobacco

Every time that January mark rolls around, when smokes are gonna go up, I’m sitting here thinking oh, no, that’s just in a few months’ time. I get that they’re thinking, hey, we’ll just keep putting the smoking prices up and that’ll stop people from smoking. No, it won’t. No, it won’t. That’s not gonna stop people. I’m one of those few people who are like, why should I stop?  And there’s a whole lot of other people out there who are like, why should I stop? Even if it’s more expensive. 

I’ve learnt how to budget to make sure that everyone has everything they need and then there’s a certain amount of money at the end of the month that is my smoke money for the month. I buy the cheapest tailies from a discount tobacconist. They work out to be about $2 cheaper, which does not sound like a lot, but it ends up being a large saving somewhere down the line. I buy them in one big go and then split them up so I don’t have to worry week to week about running out.

Lockdown (the initial lockdowns during 2020)

During lockdown, because we were so holed-up inside a lot, I would end up using my vape a lot more, especially on rainy days.  I would use my vape because I could use that inside and it wouldn’t affect anybody. But, I was still smoking my daily amount of cigarettes. I was using the vape more to top up what I excessively needed to try and get through.

I definitely took a hit financially with the lockdowns. That was mainly due to having all 4 of my children home rather than going to school. The school provides breakfast for them, so I had to buy extra food. Plus, everything just seemed to get more expensive. 

I was still buying smokes, but I had to buy everything in the supermarket which did make it more expensive for me. During lockdown, they don’t let you buy things in bulk. You can only buy like 2 packets at a time. Then I would have to make sure that I had some for every single day.

Legalising cannabis

If somebody’s gonna smoke a little bit of weed, go ahead. As long as it’s not affecting you and yours, then who cares? Drinking is probably a far worse habit than smoking or weed.

Making it legal is not gonna stop the black market. That’s not gonna stop people selling it and doing it behind people’s backs.

The only thing that I particularly care about is it being a lot easier to get medicinal access for people who need it. Two of my young children have autism. CBD oil could help them, and it can do the same for things like epilepsy. But, the doctors’ options are to put our children on a whole lot of abnormal drugs that are gonna hurt their bodies.

I’m disappointed in the way New Zealand voted for the sake of medicinal purposes only. But then also, if that’s what the country feels is the safest option for the country, then that’s fine with me too.



2 months later…


I’m smoking more. It’s school holidays. I’ve got 4 children here. My stress levels during this school holidays has been absolutely horrific. Financially, it’s been a rough year for everyone so I know that I can’t sit here and complain. It’s not just me. Every single other person is going through the exact same thing. The cost of living has gone up and everyone’s like, “Hey why is everything more expensive now?” Well, that’s just what happens. The stress from that definitely increased my need to go and sit outside for 5 minutes and take a break from everything. I don’t want to get grumpy. I’d rather have that 5-minute break.

I’m a solo parent. Everything is done on my own. That’s my life. Two of my children have autism, which also increases the stress level, trying to keep both of them happy. On top of that, my youngest is 3 and having all the kids home together during the school holidays has been very full on and the stress just went through the roof.

There are a lot of solo parents in the same situation as me, who don’t have family, who don’t have people willing to be, like, “Hey, I’ll watch your kids for an hour.” On top of that, I was also stressing about how I am going to be able to afford the extra smoking.

There are school holiday programmes, but they’re absolutely ridiculously priced. Smoking as a way to deal with stress is so much cheaper than sending my 3 big kids to a school holiday programme and leaving my 3-year-old at home with me. That’d cost me $75 a day, for five days a week! That’s a lot of money. I can’t possibly afford that. I don’t smoke $75 a day worth of smokes.

So yes, I have been smoking more, but if it gets to the point I run out of money and I run out of smokes, that is my problem to deal with. I’m always aware of when my next payday is going to be – when I’m going to have basically the exact amount I need to go to whatever shop is open at that time to buy that packet of smokes.

Time to first cigarette

In the morning I have my coffee and smoke outside before any of my kids get up. I get up at about 6 o’clock and I’m outside by 6:05 having it.

Quit attempts?

I have no intention to quit.

Tried vaping?

I stopped about 2 weeks ago. I went to the doctor and they said that I had lipoid pneumonia. They didn’t say that it was caused by the vaping, but it made me stop the vaping just in case. They gave me the antibiotics, and everything’s cleared up now, so it wasn’t an issue. I don’t know if it was the vape or not or whether I’ll restart using the vape again. It was just a rather big scare thing, and I don’t know if they scare-tactic'ed me by saying, “Oh, it could’ve been caused by your vaping.” ’Cause they didn’t say it could’ve been caused by the smoking.

From what I looked up, and from talking to people, lipoid pneumonia is when you inhale fats or oils into your lungs. A lot of people said, “You’re not actually vaping oil so you’re not going to get oil into your lungs.” But then other people said, “If you have really badly made vape juice it could’ve had some sort of an oil content in it.” So, I don’t actually know.

Stigma from smoking

Smokers are treated as dirty human beings. That’s how it’s always been portrayed – as dirty. As a teenager I thought that smoking was disgusting. But that doesn’t stop somebody being intrigued by it.

I grew to realise, as an adult, that everybody has a vice of some sort. If I can be accepting of people who drink a bottle of wine every night to relax and enjoy themselves, then they don’t need to be judgmental of my smoking. Everybody has their ways of coping and ways of dealing with things. It is only a problem when it affects your family. Regardless of money, my children have never been affected by my smoking because I always make sure that they have what they need first and foremost.  

Taxing tobacco

The recent price increase has made it a little bit more of a struggle. But I just juggle other things around to make it work. I’ll always make what I’ve got last me. Plus, being a smoker, you end up with a very good system of friends who are smokers who are very willing to say, “Here, have a smoke!”, and you can give them one back at a later date. ’Cause they know that you will, and we all know what it’s like to be without a smoke if we need one.

Plain packaging

Doesn’t bother me. I didn’t even notice when it changed.

4 months later...

My smoking’s increased. My stress levels have gone through the roof. Things just seem to be getting worse and worse lately. My daughter has Autism and we’re going through possible ADHD with my girl. She only sleeps about 3 hours a night, so I’ve got to be up with her and then I smoke more.

My habit is definitely getting worse and worse and I’m spending more on smokes. I’m not happy about it. I’m like, oh no, I’m almost out of smokes. That means I’ve smoked a heck of a lot more than I should have this week because I can’t afford to get any more. 

I ended up switching to rollies because I was going through about 2 packets of tailies in a week. I’m probably smoking about 3 packs of 30 a week, because my friends supply me with smokes when I go to their places. It’s horrible – the mental feeling of knowing that I’ve increased my smoking to a limit I cannot afford sets off this whole thing in my brain, that I’m doing a bad thing and I need to stop. You feel guilty for wanting to take a break to smoke and the guilt makes you feel 10 times worse. I’m having a smoke, then 30 minutes later having another smoke because I feel guilty for having the first one. Then I have to calm myself down for feeling guilty for having the first one, so I have a second one to try and calm that feeling down. I’m almost chasing smokes to try and feel better. That’s not good behaviour at all.

But when I smoke, the physical feeling is like my whole entire body relaxes. I call it sinking into the smoke. It relaxes my body so much, to the point I’m just sitting there happy and relaxed. Before that, the tension was so much that I’m not able to function properly. I just need to get that smoke finished and then I can sink into a relaxing moment for a while. 

Tried vaping?

I have a vape but it’s not working for me. With vaping I was able to smoke less, but after 1 pull on this new pod thingy with really high nicotine, I start to feel really sick. It’s way too strong, which sucks. It’s a Vype or Vuse pod. I got it for free from their website, for only $5 shipping. I was like, that’s a great idea. But I didn’t realise that it came with 5% nicotine in it, which works out to be 57mg. I was like, that’s really, really high nicotine. It’s kind of a scam because you have to go through their website to buy the pods. You can’t refill them, and it costs $25 for 2 pods and a pod will last about 230 puffs. It’s a very good, little handheld device, but the nicotine is way too high.

Carrying the vape around is easier when I’m in town or out shopping. You can have a couple of pulls on the vape in the car – if your kids aren’t inside – then go into the shops. Then come home and have a smoke. There are times when I’ve got no smokes and I’ll have a puff on the vape, but then I’ll get, like, nicotine overdose. I’ll feel sick and I need to go sit outside in case I throw up.

I’ve got to get another vape so I can smoke less.

Professional healthcare support to stop smoking

A lot of people were telling me that vaping is really, really bad for you. I was like, hang on, I wanna talk to a doctor about this rather than listen to you guys’ opinions of it. When I started using this new vape, my throat got sore, and I was producing more phlegm. Everyone was like, that’s unusual for a vape to do that. I spoke to my doctor about it, and he said, “Do you want to quit smoking?”, and I’m like, “Not right now, ha ha, but thank you for offering me that.” My doctor wouldn’t push it with me because he just knows not to, ha ha. He said, “So the vaping’s not working for you?” And I told him maybe it was just the particular vape I was using. But he told me vaping was perfectly safe. 

Stop smoking campaigns

I’ve seen heaps of ads on TV. I just saw one with all these women, and 2 men. It was an empowering women thing, encouraging people to quit smoking. The women were like, good on you for quitting smoking. It was all to do with the vape ad as well. I think it’s very good for people to be able to get the right information. When vaping first came out it was very aimed at younger people and being cool. Now they aim it at helping people to quit smoking.

Taxing tobacco

If I go to the tobacconist, I save about $5. The problem is, if I run out in the middle of the night or early in the morning, I need to go to a gas station. I shouldn’t need to do that – I should be asleep. The cost of it is getting to the point that even I’m like, oh no! I’m about to run out of smokes and I don’t have any money! So, I’ve gone to rollies because everyone was like, this is going to be a cheaper option. But I’m smoking more of them to get the same hit. 

Changes in usual brand tobacco

Recently, my tailies tasted different. I went to smoke one and I’d just finished my last pack, so I had a comparison, and it didn’t taste right. Also, it didn’t quite hit the same 'cause I needed to have another one straight afterwards. It made me swap brands.

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