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.