Anahera is a 45-year-old Māori woman living on the east coast of the North Island. She lived in Australia before returning home. Anahera is married with four children aged between 9 to 17 years.


I tried smoking when I was 16 but didn’t really like it. At 18, when I became legal, I started smoking.  

My mother was a smoker, and she still is, and would smoke in the house. She would have friends over often, and they all smoked. It was the norm back then in the early ’80s. We also had lots of family gatherings where everybody smoked. My older female cousins kind of pushed it on us who were younger. You weren’t a woman if you weren’t smoking. That really began it for me.

From the age of 18 to about 30, I smoked about 10 tailor-mades a day. I lived in Australia for most of that time. When I came back to New Zealand, everybody was smoking rollies. I thought they were a bit beneath me, ha ha. I thought they looked disgusting, ha ha. But then, you get used to the culture of it. I found they would last me longer. So, I went onto rollies – menthol.

Since having my children my smoking has increased. I’m probably at maybe 25 a day now. It used to be a good hour before I would have a smoke. In the last 3 years, when I get up I’ve got to pretty much have a smoke within the first half an hour. I’ve got to have a smoke before I go to bed.

Why smoking increased…

After I had my children I thought I’ll get back into the swing of work. I had enough work history. When I was in Australia it was easy to get a job. It was less competitive. Here – I found it was so much harder. I would get an interview but that’s as far as it would go. I thought partly it was because I had children and employers thought people with children are more likely to take time off work.

It could have been other things. Here, it’s who you know. Like, you go for a job and you don’t realise you’re in the bloody interview with the boss’s niece or something. You’re competing with someone who has family members inside the organisation. I got to the point where I thought I’m never gonna get there. I just ended up feeling like I didn’t have a show of getting a job and I got quite depressed over that. 

So, I went cleaning instead. Not that I’m saying that’s a bad job, it’s a great job, but the pay’s different. After years here I had to create my own thing and start my own business.

Most people I know who smoke are people that are dealing with trauma and the angst of life, like getting rejected over and over again. I’m not just talking about the rejection of being inside of the Western system and dealing with racism and bigotry. I’m also talking about how it is inside of our own Māori society. How people in power and control trying to bait people into arguments. Smoking is a remedy, it’s a quick fix. I think at the heart of it, it helps people deal with trauma. 

Quit attempts?

I’ve tried to stop smoking many times, too many to mention. My first attempt was cold turkey. That was just prior to having my firstborn. When I found out I was pregnant, I went cold turkey. I failed miserably at that. I lasted only like a month. I had cold sweats and all sorts.

My other attempts were with Champix. I went to the doctor. My girlfriend and I decided to do it at the same time, so we went and had a full health check-up from blood pressure to going to see a ‘gynie’ and just doing a whole lot of blood tests. It was supposed to motivate us to go as healthy as possible. The doctor recommended these tablets. Part of the reason for that was ’cause I had a lot of anxiety around it. Although I was talking about giving up a lot – inside me, my brain hadn’t quite caught up with my mouth. 

There were too many side effects with Champix. I had headaches. So, I wasn’t all that successful on that either. I probably only lasted a month and then failed again. 

Healthcare support to stop smoking

I’m aware there are quit-smoking programmes ’cause they’re usually advertised at the doctors’ with pamphlets and things like that or at the hospitals. I’ve not actually used them.

About 10 years ago, hearing the doctors talk about smoking to you all the time was common to me. They would say, “Look, have you thought about giving up smoking?  I see that you’re smoking and you’re still smoking, have you thought about quitting?”  But where I’ve moved to I haven’t heard a doctor say that yet.  It’s pretty much got to be prompted or initiated by me saying, “What do you think about me giving up smoking? What services would you recommend for me to give up smoking? What products would you recommend?”  

Tried vaping?

I have about 3 different kinds of vapes in my house. I think you have to get the right type of vape first off. The vapes that I’ve got, they’ve got like an oil taste. It’s like you get left with a residue. So yeah, they kind of turn me off.

It’s overwhelming, too, when you go to a vape shop.  There are so many different brands and whatever else. All you want to know is that it will feel like and taste like what happens when I have a cigarette.  I don’t want all the variety – one will do me.

Many of my friends are opting for vaping and they’re doing really well on it. They haven’t smoked for over a year. I think it’s absolutely possible to switch to vaping. But I don’t think I’ve really put my mind to it.

Tried home grown tobacco?

When I was living up north my husband and I had parted. I had my youngest and my older three were living with my husband. With the amount of stress and missing my children a lot, I was smoking a lot more, and I couldn’t afford it. So, a friend of mine said, “I’m growing it, do you want me to harvest some for you?  I said, “Oh yeah, that would be great.” 

I found it harsh. I was like oh my gosh! But it was absolutely much cheaper. She was able to do it in ounces. That would last a whole blinkin’ couple of months and because it was so strong too I didn’t like smoking them.

I haven’t tried blackmarket cigarettes. A friend of mine bought some scented tobacco smokes from an Indian shop. They tasted like strawberry and I thought these are bloody awesome. I don’t know if it was blackmarket, but that’s as blackmarket as it got for me, ha ha. 

Bans on where people can smoke…

I absolutely agree with banning smoking in cars. I’ve seen some of my uncles smoke in their cars while they have children in the car. I’m not a nice person when I see things like that. I turn quite ugly quite quick. I’m like, “What the hell are you doing? Why are you smoking while you’ve got tamariki in the car?”  They’re like, “It’s all right, it’s my car.” And I say, “What a sad, shit attitude to have.” The reason why is ’cause we were raised in the homes of smokers. If there’s anything that I can associate my smoking to, and the smoking of my own family members and cousins, it’s that – because it was so normalised.  

There’s no smoking in our house or the car. Even when I was single, I never smoked in the house or in my car. I hate the congestion. It’s got to be outside or it’s nowhere. If you don’t smoke outside, well then, you can piss off.

I don’t expect people to try and hide away in a corner, but have some respect for other people

They could go further and ban smoking in homes. I know that’s a bit of a breach of people’s privacy, but when you’re out of control and a smoker like me and when your willpower is not great, then whether we like it or not it’s a reality for us that these sorts of legal instruments have to be used in order for us to toe a particular line.  

Smokefree 2025

I 100 percent agree with Smokefree 2025. If you don’t have it then you can’t buy it. It’s like me with my kids: if they can’t get the chocolate or they can’t get the wi-fi then they go without and they soon figure out that going without is not a problem. They adjust. I would be exactly the same I believe. I just think I don’t have the willpower. I don’t know how many years of smoking it’s taken me to just reduce it down. But if you ask me to give up smoking, it’s just not gonna happen – not while it’s still available.

Taxing Tobacco

The price of smokes in Australia was a lot less. But although I noticed how much more it was costing, smoking was such a part of my life that I could just kind of overlook it. Like it’s a necessity, like water, it had to be there. 

My mother just told me she was giving up which I was quite shocked at, because she’s never said that. She said, “I’m giving up because it’s so expensive.” I’ve thought those thoughts for some time too. The expense far outweighs what we can handle. I’ve got to manage those taxes. It directly affects me and many people that are like me.  I don’t like that. I don’t think that that’s the way to achieve Smokefree 2025.   

If we’re gonna go for that, go for gold, then that’s the way we should deal with eradicating smoking fatalities. But punishing people through putting on taxes – you’re punishing the little person at the other end. I would say increase the taxes for those taking them.  

Legalising cannabis

I was all for legalising cannabis, for decriminalising it anyway. I’ve got many family members that are users of cannabis and not for the reasons people think. Mostly it’s for dealing with trauma. I don’t see them as abusers. I’m not in crowds of people that abuse it to the extent that they smoke it all day, all night. And many of them are not tobacco smokers.

The people I know are one-off smokers of it because it gives them some reprieve. It’s really shit when people constantly say “What stress? You don’t have stress. Everything’s all good now. Everything’s acceptable and available to us. We’re in the land of milk and honey.” But that’s not the reality for everybody. My experience of not being able to get a job is a good example of that.

Lockdown (2020)

It didn’t affect us. It didn’t affect me mentally. I actually loved having my children and husband at home. I loved that whole experience. Going down to the superette, which is only just down the road from me, to get smokes was easy. But during that time, I wasn’t smoking as much. It’s the same on weekends when my children are home and even in the evening. It’s different from when I’m at work. The minute I am focused on my work then I’m smoking, smoking, smoking, ha ha. 



2 months later…

I haven’t smoked for about 6 or 7 weeks. I’m just vaping. I had some heart issues, palpitations, pumping through my bloody skin. I thought, I’ve just got to be brave and do it. So, I went straight to vaping ‘cos I thought, this is the only way I’m going to be able to truly get through this.

It’s been a lot easier than I thought. I’d built it up in my head that it was going to be hard, and I would never be able to do it. That I’ve got too much trauma. It was all that self-talk – I recognised just how powerful it can be, but how it’s not me. I noticed it’s all of the projections that I’ve collected since childhood to the now – that’s where that self-talk comes from. 

The switch to vaping

I vape lemon freeze, which is a really citrusy fresh taste. I work in a new role, so I don’t touch it from about 9am ’til about 4 or 5 in the afternoon, depending on the days.  I don’t run outside and go, oh I need one – even that has been awesome.

I went to a vape specialist and had a good talk with him. He put me on to 4mg and I’m still on the 4mg. He recommended reducing the amount that I’m vaping before I start to go down, to create the habit of not using it, so that I won’t feel the stress that I’d typically feel if I just went down.  So, create the habits around it first. So that’s what I’ve been doing. It’s cheaper. It’s about $70-$140 a week we’re saving. The set-up for me was the same amount it cost to buy cigarettes. My juice lasts me 4 weeks, which is $40, which is $10 a week. It’s awesome.

The other good thing is that when it runs out of battery, I don’t take my charger to work, so then I can’t charge it.  It stopped the habit of having a couple of puffs before I get in the car. So, it breaks that habit of running outside to have it.  It’s been effective. 

My mum stopped smoking too. We, stopped at the same time.  So, it’s been 6 or 7 weeks of not smoking cigarettes, which is awesome. It’s been a big huge turnaround for her after blinkin’ 40-something years of smoking. She said, “The weirdest thing is how easy it’s been.” She’s on zero nicotine now. She doesn’t cough like she used to. She had a constant little cough and she’d be coughing for, like, days. She’d starting to go inside herself. She wasn’t going out, she wasn’t socialising with people like she used to do, but she said she’s starting to grow confidence back. So many people have stopped smoking or have passed away from smoking in her social groupand of course there’s the judgement that comes at her age, still smoking. She said, “I feel more confident being around people because I don’t have to pull out a cigarette or have to be outside and it breaks the mood.” It’s been good for her. She loves where she’s at.

Worried about weight gain

I was really worried about my weight because I was already getting big even when I was smoking. So, what’s also happened is that I’ve stopped drinking. It’s been 7 weeks without drinking, which has been fantastic. I’ve noticed the difference that that’s made, and I do intermittent fasting. I’ve lost about 20 kgs. I brought out all the guns.

In the first 2 to 3 weeks it was a challenge, just having to ignore the things that typically trigger me. It helped having a new role at work at the same time, which took me out of the house a lot. Once I hit the 3-week marker it’s been so easy it feels like a part of my lifestyle now, so yeah – I feel like I’ve kind of transformed. 

I went out a couple of weeks ago with a couple of friends and, even though I’m not drinking, I had the urge to grab a cigarette because there was alcohol on the table. So yeah, I’ve gotta break that behaviour.

I rolled a cigarette when I first started this, and I left it on my dresser. It’s still there to this day. It’s just a reminder of what it takes to resist. That’s been really good too. My husband said to me, “Are you going to throw that thing away? It’s starting to go brown. Ha ha.  I said, “No, just leave it there, it keeps reminding me, that’s not where I am.” And it does, it’s an everyday resistance and you’ve got to apply it.  


I bought me a Samsung Fit Inspire 2, which is a little watch that keeps track of my heart, my health, my water intake and activities. Having technology like that really does help. I get a daily read on where my health is at, which stops the mental chatter that it’s too late. This reminds me, no, you’re fine. You’re not in any harm, you’re well. So, tech to me, for someone who had smoked for as long as I have, had to be in place in order for my mind to be restful, to manage this whole process. Had that not been there I think it might have been different. I knew I had to attack this differently. I’m even impressed, ha ha.

4 months later...

Switching from smoking to vaping

I’m still vaping and I haven’t smoked a cigarette.

I’m using a new vape which you can’t do rapid sucking, like, an all-day sucker. You’ve got to put it down for at least 5 minutes and it’s got to rest before you can actually use it again. So, little things like that to slowly wean myself off the vaping and to help me from being on it constantly. To not to go back to cigarette smoking, I’d be constantly on it when I’m not at work. I’d just be sitting reading a book and just smoking it, ha ha. It dawned on me that I needed to get around that, otherwise it becomes habit. So, I went down to the vape shop and had a talk with them. They said the way to do it is by purchasing a different vape that doesn’t allow you to use it non-stop, then you won’t get a burnt flavour. There’s all sorts of benefits to changing the vape to a slower burn. So, I’m pretty happy.

Healthcare support to stop smoking

I’ve had check-ups with the doctor just to keep a track of my heart. They’ve been positive, you know, “That’s great.” Everything seems to be fine, so that supports me to stay focused and not lose heart or panic. That’s half the problem, the anxiety kicks in and you’ve got no measure or no tool to put it back in balance. It would be easy to excuse going back to smoking.

Lockdown and staying quit

Usually, if I’m in a stressful situation I’m going to get prepared, eh? You get your stash of tobacco, blah blah. But I didn’t go out and get the juice. I’ve got hardly any left, so I’ve had to make it stretch. I’ve had thoughts in my brain, when you run out, what’s the next step? But I’ve got a mate next door that vapes, so if I needed to I’d just go there. She’s always stocked up to the hilt. So, being able to negate having to go down the shop and buy cigarettes, it’s just making sure you’ve got the right stock on hand. So, I haven’t been stressed out at all. Actually, loved the time out.

Mum’s by herself and I said, “So you haven’t smoked?”

“No”, she said, “Waste of bloody money. I’d rather keep my money.” She’s kind of opted to put her money into little things, like trinkets, jewellery, and fashion. So, she’s just been treating herself weekly. It’s happening organically. She doesn’t have a mentor or a stop-smoking coach. I’m not saying that those things aren’t helpful, but the 2 of us are doing it together – we can coach each other if we need to. ­

I spoke to a friend, and she goes, This lockdown, I’ve gone out and got my stock of alcohol, ha ha, bourbons and smokes.” She goes, “What about you?” I say, “I haven’t smoked for months. I haven’t drank for months”.She was like, “What? How? I am struggling, mate.”

I said, “Think about 10 years down the track, and at 56, mate, I don’t want to be not able to do things.” That’s a bit of reality check. She text me last night, “Mate, I didn’t get my bourbon, or my cigarettes and I’ve got my new vape”. I said,Good girl. Ka pai koe!”

It makes a difference, eh, when a smoker is talking to a smoker. If people can’t relate, and they’re not having authentic conversations about it, you may as well be talking to a machine.

Stopping other habits

I’ve stopped drinking and I’m trying to get my husband to stop too. He’s not a big drinker – it’s just the habit. I’m trying to break all of these habits. At this age we have the opportunity to reinvent who we are. I keep trying to push that message on my husband. I’m pretty happy with that. A good message for people is… Stop the chatter in your head, it doesn’t matter what you’re dealing with whether it’s stress, anxiety or whatever, if you can stop the chatter, you can stop the habit.

Cigarettes sold in dairies, supermarkets, liquor stores, petrol stations and discount tobacco stores

Personally, I think cigarettes should be limited the same way alcohol is. It’s too accessible and can’t be monitored around who’s buying, or to the extent people are buying. This might sound a little bit pedantic but there should be some analytics on this, and you can’t do that when it’s spread across so many different vendors. 

It’s too acceptable. It makes it too easy for people to walk in, buy and be unconscious about what they’re doing. If you take up the age limit, you can have less people buying. If you square it off to one vendor, like a supermarket, then you’re going to be able to grow the analytics around the type of buying and the frequency of buying. That would provide a whole lot more different data. So, just in supermarkets – but I think we should have a vision for completely not selling it. I know that’s what the government’s currently looking at. I think it needs to go from vision into action.

What if tobacco was sold only in pharmacies

That’s an interesting concept. I’ve never thought of it from that angle, but it makes absolute sense. I think that’s bloody brilliant. The reason is, you see pharmacies as a medical unit, an outreach for health and wellbeing. So, if it’s sold there, there’s opportunity for more wraparound stuff to occur there. I think that’s fantastic. It’s a great idea. But to be safe, they’d need additional security to make sure that they’re not robbed.

If recreational cannabis for smoking was legalised, where should that be sold?

Oh gawd! Interesting. I think from a pharmacy. I’d say definitely for medicinal purposes it should be sold from a pharmacy. People need to be skilled at knowing how to sell it. To keep the purity of it being for medicinal use, otherwise people will take it into recreational things and that’s a totally different thing.  Only a few people I know are skilled in that and they’re not pharmacists, ha ha.

For recreational use, I don't know about that, eh. I’d get a bit worried about how dirty that can get – people in this really drongo state. Oh fuck! I can’t deal with it, eh.

If my kids were ever to experiment in something like that, a couple of things that I would want to make sure of: it’s classy, it’s got purpose and there is a social etiquette. Nobody showed us the social etiquette for smoking, everyone just smoked. I certainly don’t want my kids smoking cigarettes. The whole look of it is ugly these days. I’d want to make sure of the elements they’re surrounded by, and it’s handled with some class. Not that we can influence shops to look classy, ha ha.

6 months later...

Switching from smoking to vaping

I’m good. I’m still tobacco-free. I’m still vaping, but not as much as I was. I’ve hung out with a lot of my friends here that smoke cigarettes, and I haven’t been tempted at all to smoke.

I’ve been cutting down slowly, and I start work next week at a new role – so that will slow it right down.

My first vape of the day is probably not until maybe 1pm in the afternoon. So, I just get up and keep myself busy. I’m still not drinking and I’ve put on a lot of weight, ha ha. But I’m still happy with where things are going.

My husband doesn’t smoke. He’s happy. We have more money now and we’ve been spending all of it on food, ha ha. Once I’m in my new role, that will all change. The other difference is that I don’t have that cigarette smell on me 24/7.  My kids are happier for it and I’m more affectionate with my children because, smelling like smoke, you kind of keep them at a distance. So that’s increased our relationship, our connection. 

Healthcare support to stop smoking

I have been to the doctors recently. The only change is the cholesterol and high blood pressure – that’s got to do with our eating. These weren’t a problem before. There’s no other issue – it’s just the eating now, just curbing that, filling the time in. 

Bans on where people can smoke

We never smoked in cars anyway, never. Hate it.

Staying positive, staying switched

I had a meeting with an organisation on Zoom – they’re all smoking on-screen.  I said to them, “Have you noticed that I haven’t smoked?” And they were like, Seriously yeah, we have noticed. We haven’t seen you with a cigarette.” I said, “It’s been months, you know.” I have to keep reminding myself that it’s a real accomplishment to get through – let alone the alcohol. Now I just have to get the fitness and the eating right. I’m still very conscious of it. Smoking is often there to cover up – PTSD, old trauma, whatever else. So that all comes flooding to the surface. It takes a little time to process.

Previous Chapter
Next Chapter