Kara is a 51-year-old Māori Pākeha woman who lives in the South Island. She is married, has 3 children and 5 grandchildren. Kara and her husband are also foster parents.


It’s the same old story. I started smoking about 16, hanging out with mates having a smoke. I’d moved away from home, from the country to the city, and I was on a hairdressing training course. I pretty much started then, but did a bit of starting and stopping, starting and stopping.

How much I smoke a day now varies. When I wake up, my first smoke is usually well after half an hour 'cause I’ve got a 1 year old baby. I get her breakfast, get her all sorted, then I’ll go and have a fag.  I probably smoke 10 or 12 rollies a day – otherwise, if I’m having a few drinks with friends, I’ll smoke lots more. I’ve never been a fan of tailor-mades.

I like smoking. I’ll smoke for a few months and then I might decide, I’ve had enough now. Maybe my lungs are feeling a bit sticky or I’m gonna go camping or something, so I’ll just stop for a while. It’s just, socially, I actually find smoking is quite enjoyable for me. And, if I’m feeling a bit pissy or grumpy, it is nice to just pop away and have a ciggy. 

Quit attempts

When I got pregnant, I stopped smoking 'cause I got too sick.  I couldn’t smoke.  It made me feel sick, so that was a good thing. I’d stay off it for a while, and then I’d start up again because, it’s weird, but I quite enjoy it. My partner smoked as well.

Other times, if I wanted to stop, I’d just do hypnosis online. I’d just listen to it on my ear buds when I went to bed.  The first time, I listened to a tape and it was the best one. A guy came here and did a course, and he sold these cassette tapes. It was amazing. I didn’t smoke for like 2 years. Then it was my birthday and New Year’s, – I was with a heap of family and some of them were smoking and I was like, I think I’m going to start smoking.

Another time, a woman at work gave me a book. You were supposed to smoke your way through the book and then, at the end you would decide to give up smoking. It was really boring, and I stopped reading it. It wasn’t for me. I was like, I know all that. If you know all that, you don’t need to be told it in a book.

I stopped for about 3 or 4 months about a year ago, for a surgery I had to have. I stopped for a few weeks before the surgery and didn’t smoke until 2 or 3 months after the surgery. I decided I’d start up again – sort of socially.

It’s a bit willy-nilly. I smoke for a year or so and then I’d give up for a few months or a year, and then if I’m emotional or something, I’ll decide I’m going to smoke for a while.

Healthcare support to stop smoking

When I went for the surgery, the surgeon said to me, “You know you’ll heal much faster if you’re a non-smoker.” I was like, oh dammit ha ha. I said, “I’ll give up for it.” He goes, “Good idea.” And I said, “I’ll probably start again after.” Then he goes, “That’s your choice.” He was really good. He didn’t pressure me to give up. So, I stopped and stayed stopped until I went back for my check-ups, and he said that it was all healing really good.

He didn’t offer me anything to quit, but I didn’t ask either. I figure if I don’t ask for cessation support then they shouldn’t be pushing it on me like a Jehovah Witness banging on my door telling me I need to. If I wanted to, I would do it myself.

It does really bug me when you go anywhere to get any help with anything – the first question is, are you a smoker? And it’s often irrelevant whether I’m smoking or not, because I’m not there for any lung problems or anything that a cigarette would affect.

Tried vaping?

I was vaping on and off. Because insurance premiums for a smoker are higher, and I was a non-smoker, I told my insurance company. But they informed me that vaping is exactly the same as smoking as far as they were concerned. And I thought, well, if it’s all the same then I may as well just smoke.

I think vaping is worse than smoking. It’s horrible. I know it’s bad because vaping was so much harder on my lungs and my breathing. I didn’t like the sensation. It was just totally different to smoking. It’s a totally different everything. That was a 6mg nicotine vape pen.

I loved the smell of them though. They smell better. That’s probably why a lot of people think we should be vaping – because it smells so much nicer than cigarette smoke. But it’s not the same as smoking – it made me cough more and, yeah, I didn’t like it.

I’m pretty shocked at the age of children who are vaping, like, children in intermediate school.  It’s crazy.  I’ve got a child who is vaping. She’s 15, but her and her friends were vaping at 14.  They’ve all got vapes hidden away, and they vape the highest strength. They even take their vapes to school. They vape everywhere and no one knows it 'cause it smells like lip gloss. I was just amazed, like, 12-year-olds, 11-year-olds, have got their own vapes. I said, “How did you guys even get vapes?” They said, “We just get someone to buy them for us.” I was thinking, in my day it was alcohol.

The thing is, I don’t understand – is it the drawing in of the vape that’s bad for you? Or is it the stuff you blow out? Is that bad for somebody else? I heard all that stuff about popcorn lungs. All I know is that when I had a go at vaping, I tend to cough and splutter and choke on it, ha ha. 

Tried homegrown tobacco?

I had a friend who had family overseas. They hand-rolled some humongous cigars and sent them over for us, and they were amazing. They were so much easier to smoke than normal cigarettes. But I’ve never tried homegrown.

I was talking to a lady recently who said that she grows her own. She thought you’re actually not allowed to. She didn’t think you were allowed to sell the plants or the tobacco, but she didn’t know about the seeds. She said, if I wanted to try and grow it, I could have some seeds. But I don’t think I’d be able to. 

Bans on where people can smoke…

Our house is smokefree and I hate smoking in my car. When I wasn’t smoking, if my husband was smoking, I certainly laid down the law if he was driving my car. There is no smoking in my car. I go camping and there’s absolutely no smoking in my van or anything like that, ‘cause of my baby and my grandson, and I don’t like the smell going through the car.

Ban on smoking in cars with people under 18

When they banned smoking in cars, there was this thing that went round Facebook. It was this lady, and it showed her hand holding a cigarette and the steering wheel. And the saying was, I hate this new law about not smoking with the children in the car. Through the windscreen were these kids standing in the rain, freezing, waiting while she had her cigarette. It was funny, but not… a bit of a giggle.

Smoking should be outside anyway. I always smoke outside the pub. Whether I was a smoker or a non-smoker, I couldn’t stand it when you would go out somewhere and there’s a haze of cigarette smoke in the room.  I was happy when they stopped people smoking inside.

When I am a non-smoker, I can’t stand the smell of cigarettes when I’m walking around the streets. Mind you, that’s a lot to do with the hypnosis too – because it tells you that you’re not going to like it. I’m in a small town and the most social place is usually outside the pub, where people are smoking. When they first introduced that you smoke outside, a lot of non-smokers would go outside.

Taxing tobacco

The tax is a bit miserable. I know a lot of people who are really bad with drinking, and they haven’t whopped the tax right up on drinking, or gambling. I mean, you’re still able to go to the pub and spend all your money on a gambling machine, more than you can afford, and yet they put the tax up on cigarettes, which I think it sucks, actually. 

At the moment, the smokes come out of my husband’s money 'cause I’m not working. I’m raising baby. But, basically, if we decide that we want to do something or go somewhere, then I will quit smoking to save that extra money. 

Smokefree 2025

I talked to a guy who owns a tobacconist, and he was saying that they don’t actually want to totally phase tobacco out 'cause they couldn’t afford to. I thought that makes sense 'cause they make an awful lot of money off of smokers with the tax that they put on it.

Smokefree 2025 - I sort of thought… yeah, nah. It’s taking away people’s choice.  Freedom of speech will be next. 

Legalising cannabis

I thought it was amazing that they are trying to phase out cigarettes and yet bring in marijuana. I can have a cigarette and drive my car after it and be perfectly normal. But, marijuana, even drinking – I mean you get behind the wheel after you’ve had a drink and you’re way more dangerous than you are if you have a cigarette.

I voted legalise it because, if they legalise it, then it’s going to take money away from gangs that are selling it. And it’ll mean maybe there’s less meth. I’ve seen a survey and it said that a lot of people would prefer to smoke marijuana but it’s more expensive, and it’s the same as a lot of other drugs that are real bad. I’d rather the marijuana was smoked than the other stuff.

I think people should just be able to choose anyway, when it comes to it. As long as they’re sensible and smoke it at home – not out on the streets. 



2 months later…

Nothing’s changed. I’m still smoking the same amount, just mild rollies – roll-your-own with filters.

You can get cheaper ones. But I smoke because I enjoy it. I wouldn’t smoke this brand if I didn’t like the taste, or the smell, or flavour. I realise that it’s more expensive. But I’ve just picked up another job so I can afford to smoke, isn’t that terrible?

If I’m saving for something like travel, I’ll give up smoking. We’ve been to Rarotonga, and a couple of cruises. But we can’t travel anywhere right now. I’m not travelling anywhere in the world while COVID’s as bad as it is. We’re stuck here. We’re staying home so I may as well spend my money on cigarettes.

Smokefree 2025 - effect on tourism

If New Zealand bans smoking, I’d have to go overseas and stay as long as I could to get my smoking fix before coming home. I just can’t see it. One place I worked, 90% of the people who came through were tourists. Just about every foreigner who spoke French, Japanese or Chinese, smoked. I said to my husband, “How’s that going to work? They won’t want to come here if they’re not allowed to bring their habit.”

When you book a holiday away you don’t think, oh, but you’re not allowed to smoke in that country. Suddenly you have to kick smoking to go on a holiday? That’s pretty hard case.

How is Smokefree 2025 going to affect our tourist market? The tourist market is so important to us. Do we tell everyone before they come to New Zealand that they’re not allowed to smoke – or are they allowed to smoke, and we aren’t? There are so many tourists that smoke. If we’re a smokefree, supposedly, country, then there will be no smoking at all for tourists and people who live here. How many tourists are going to say, “Yeah, we’re not going to New Zealand – you can’t even have a ciggie there.” 

What if the government banned filters? 

I heard they’re going to make filters really big in cigarettes. Are they doing something to do with normal filters as well?

Why would they ban filters because it makes it worse for you to smoke? That makes no sense at all. So, they’re trying to make it worse for you so you give up? They’re going to make you sicker. There’s going to be those staunch people who don’t give up anyway.

Oh, that would suck because it would make it so much worse for me. I hate smoking without a filter. It would probably annoy the shit out of me. Well, what I would do is go and buy masses and masses of filters, ha ha.

What do you think about increasing the age so young people will never be able to buy legal tobacco? 

I have a wee foster baby. I’ve had her since she was two hours old. She’s wonderful. I hadn’t smoked in a while. I stopped smoking until she was about 6 months old and then I thought, okay she’s sweet, you can go and smoke outside now. I have a jacket I put on when I smoke, and I take it off when I come inside. I’m hoping she’s not going to be a smoker. There’ll be none around then anyway. I’d have to hoard a tonne of cigarettes and a tonne of filters obviously for her to get them.

I heard they were talking about making smoking illegal for children under a certain age. They come out of school, and they start to smoke. They’re the ones they are hoping to stop smoking. They’re talking about raising the age to be over 18 – like 25 or something now.

I don’t really care about what they’re talking about because all we’re really doing is creating another black market. It just blows me away that they’re trying to do this when we’ve just had a referendum about smoking marijuana. What the hell? Ban papers – then they would ruin it for the marijuana smokers as well, ha ha.

So, if you grow your own tobacco, you can smoke it, or is that going to be illegal as well? I know you’re allowed to grow it for your own consumption but you’re not allowed to sell it, much like home brewing. But aren’t we creating another black market like marijuana, where people are going to be growing it and then selling it? Then they’ll have to spend a whole lot of money on that, like they do to police meth and other drugs.

And what about vaping? Are they going to knock that on the head once they get everybody vaping? People are getting just as addicted to vaping. The nicotine in some vapes is more than I get out of a cigarette, and they sit there and suck on it constantly. Countries overseas are starting to ban vaping because of the wet moisture going into the lungs. Isn’t that supposed to be bad for you? 

What if dairies and petrol stations could no longer sell cigarettes?

I saw that you’re only going to be able to buy tobacco from certain places and I was wondering, what certain places? Because there won’t be one of those in our small rural town. We’ve got a garage, a supermarket, a dairy and two pubs. It’s 130 km’s to the nearest town. The government don’t care about people in rural areas. If they cared about people in rural areas, we wouldn’t have to pay as much for our petrol. We pay more for our petrol than they do in town. In town they can catch a bus, ride a bike to work, or get a taxi. Out here we can’t. It’s a long way to go to town to go to the hospital. If we have an accident or an emergency, we’ve got to fill up our petrol and drive. I think they’d love to see rural not be rural and everybody just live in the cities.

What if they reduced the nicotine in tobacco to a very low level?

I smoke because I enjoy smoking. I’ll quit for a couple of years and then I’ll think, I’m going to have a smoke and I’ll go and buy some. I can smoke for a few months, weeks or even a couple of years and then I might quit again and not smoke for ages. I enjoy it. To me, it’s like having a drink. People like to have a wine after work, I like to sit down and have a cigarette. This is why I’m a bit bummed about all this – it really annoys me. I presume I must be addicted to nicotine and that’s why I keep going back to it. But the other thing is, I just really enjoy it.

Are they taking the nicotine down in vapes at the same time they remove it from cigarettes? Are they giving away free vapes? I’ve tried vaping. I didn’t like it. It’s a totally different feeling. It’s a totally different everything. I tried vaping with nicotine, and with no nicotine. I did that because it tasted nice but, to me, it’s not the same. It’s not as enjoyable.

I already smoke mild. Are they going to bring the price down on these low-nicotine cigarettes? If they brought the price down and it only had a little bit of nicotine, I’d smoke it.

I don’t care how much advertising and wasting money and doing all that sort of shit they do – people would have already given up if they wanted to. I don’t want to be told that I have to give up. I would like to give up when I want to. The fair thing is that it should be their choice. When a person has to give up something, you’ve got to wait for them to come around to the idea of wanting to give it up. If people start jamming it in your face – you should give up, you should give up, you should give up – eventually you go, “Yeah mate, stuff you. Leave me alone.” I think you just make them smoke more.

The worst people are the reformed smokers. No one told you that you had to quit – you chose to quit, so how about you just back off? It still should be a choice thing. It just bugs me that they start taking our choice away. They’re starting to think for us and tell us what we have to do. We’ll start seeing a whole lot of sheep wandering around waiting to be told what to do next. 

Legalising cannabis

Marijuana was never going to be legalised. There’s people who hate it, there’s people who make a lot of money from it. There’s no way someone who makes a lot of money is going to say, “Yes, let’s make it legal so people can grow their own, then I can’t make my hundreds or thousands of dollars.”

I don’t care if they want to smoke at home, they do less damage than alcohol. As a smoker, I do less damage than alcohol. I used to work in the fire brigade picking up bodies from blimmin’ alcohol. We’re not banning that are we? There would be a hell of an outcry if they tried to ban alcohol.

4 months later

I’m still smoking. I stopped for a week because I went to visit a friend who’s given up. She’s vaping and trying not to smoke. So, I didn't smoke when I was at her place.

I stop and start whenever I want. I don’t smoke when I’m working, and if I’m going to town, I don’t bother for the day. But it’s nice to get home.

I don’t want to give up yet.

My first smoke – probably depending what I’m doing – I’ll have it with my first cup of tea. That’s within 20 minutes of waking up. Otherwise, within half an hour or so. I’ve definitely increased lately, I’ve been a bit stressed – probably 20 or more a day.

Tried vaping?

I had another turn with the vape, but I really don’t like it. They cost a lot and they’re totally different to smoking cigarettes. It’s more damp, rather than dry. I don’t enjoy having a vape. It came with a 4% tobacco, but I didn’t like the taste. So I bought a watermelon one and they only had that in 0%. So, I had a 0% watermelon one and it was not nice. 

Vaping and kids in schools 

Lots of the kids in schools vape more than they smoke cigarettes because it smells like bubble-gum. I’ve got a foster daughter and granddaughter who vape. My granddaughter is only 12. She’s not even at high school yet. She’s been caught with a vape twice, and said all her friends are vapers. That’s scary. That’s at intermediate school! They can get it so easy, and they seem to be able to afford them. It’s like $20, but I think they all go shares and they buy the really strong juice – then they share the juice.

Smoking vs alcohol

The news is all about scare-mongering. I mean, alcohol is as bad. All the young, like the social rugby – they’re based a lot around alcohol. When our son started going higher in rugby, he wasn’t allowed to drink. They were trying to change the culture of it. It’s funny, they never worried too much about smoking ‘cos that was their choice. But there’s no changes to the alcohol laws. It’s just picking on smoking and now they’re picking on the vapers. They’re going to get as many people as they can to quit smoking, then they’re going to cut the vapes off just like that – bang! And suddenly, it’s not allowed. Next, we’ll have the whole ‘how bad vaping is for you.


Previous Chapter
Next Chapter