Talanoa -- sharing stories -- is an essential part of the life of Pacific people, and an essential part of our journey to becoming smokefree together.
For World Smokefree Day, Hāpai Te Hauora have been working in partnership with Tala Pasifika to collect smokefree stories from the community, asking people to answer the question "What does smokefree mean to me?"
Some of the strongest answers have come from children. These include:
"So, we can be healthy, and safe and we want to be all happy"
"A clean green and better future"
"Everyone is healthy and active, and that people’s lives would be longer."
Unfortunately, the numbers tell a different, sometimes disappointing story. The smoking rate for Pacific adults is 24%; for Pacific men it’s 28% and for Pacific women it’s 22%. Pacific people have the second-highest smoking rates in Aotearoa after Māori, and are more likely to get sick because of tobacco smoking than people from non-Pacific, non-Maori populations. Pacific smokers also have the quickest transition from experimentation to regular smoking.
Members of our Pacific communities are working to change that every day. Lealailepule Edward Cowley is General Manager of the National Training Service (NTS) for Stop Smoking Practitioners and Senior Advisor to Tala Pasifika. He says, "It is about our stories and how many of us have managed to quit for good and are now celebrating smokefree lives and families." Cowley says that he and five of his seven siblings all quit together to keep each other strong and to ensure that their children and children’s children never pick up the habit. To his delight his whole family is now smokefree.
Member of Parliament Anahila Kanongata’a-Suisuiki has been smokefree for almost 20 years. Kanongata’a-Suisuiki says that being smokefree is "a gift for the future" and "a gift for future generations." She also acknowledges the services that work hard supporting people who smoke to quit.
Stephanie Erick, General Manager of the National Tobacco Control Advocacy Service at Hāpai Te Hauora says that the stories we tell now will determine our smokefree future. "To reach our Smokefree 2025 goal, to build a smokefree Aotearoa together, we need to celebrate how far we’ve come and keep moving forward," says Stephanie.
CEO of Hāpai Te Hauora Selah Hart says "Pacific people are making important contributions to our smokefree story every day. The Smokefree Cars Bill which Associate Minister of Health Jenny Salesa ushered through its third reading this week is a strong example of how we can protect children, who are most at risk from second-hand smoke."
Minister Salesa has shared in a written statement, "A smokefree Aotearoa means a focus on saving lives and preventing disease, especially for our Māori and Pacific people. I would like an Aotearoa where our tamariki grow up free from the harms of tobacco and second-hand smoke, with an improvement in health equity for our vulnerable populations."
The last word belongs to Patrick Lafaele-Barlow, another young person who has his own story about what smokefree means;
"It means the future, the future of us young Pasifika people living in clean, healthy, safe environments, so we can be active and create those long-lasting memories with our loved ones."
For more details and to share your story for World Smokefree Day this Sunday, please visit Kick Butt on Facebook or go to www.tobaccocontrol.nz