Wāhine Māori across Aotearoa are paving the way by encouraging other wāhine to switch to vaping following the annual tobacco excise tax increase on January 1st.

New Zealanders who smoke will take another hit when the tax on tobacco products increases by 10 per cent for the third year in a row today as part of the government's plan to make New Zealand smokefree by 2025. As tobacco products become increasingly unaffordable, wāhine are advocating for vaping to be more readily available and accepted as a quit tool.

Māmā of two, Mel Morris, says that switching her long time smoking habit to vaping has given her the financial and physical freedom that cigarettes denied her: "After becoming a vaper, I became debt free. I put $20 a week away into savings, and I’d saved over a hundreds within the first few months. I created a smoking account, so all that money was put into savings. I wrote a Christmas wish list for myself for the end of the year. Before Christmas, I went with my daughter and bought her a Christmas outfit with the savings money from being smokefree. I love it- I feel so proud and the seeing the kids reaction like "wow mum, really? It’s so expensive" but I can do it now."

Māmā to be, Hineatua Smith, says that "vaping has made quitting easier. Giving up while pregnant is really hard. I don’t think I could have done it so easily without the vape". Medical practitioner and smokefree advocate, Dr Hayden McRobbie, feels that "ideally women should have smoke-free and vape-free pregnancies. However, we do know that vaping is likely to be much less harmful to both mothers and babies’ health than smoking is so if vaping is what helps you quit smoking then do that".

In a recent report on tobacco tax issued by the Ministry of Health, one of the key recommendations is to bridge Māori inequities by using a more "targeted approach". Mihi Blair, Hāpai General Manager of Tobacco Control, agrees and expressed her concerns about how to date, there has been limited effort and success with strategies for wāhine Māori, especially when considering approximately 45% of Māori women smoke in pregnancy.

Hāpai share the stance of many in the community and health sector in acknowledging that tobacco tax increases can prompt quitting and reduce smoking uptake but could be more effective if the increases did not come at such a financially and psychological stressful time. Blair states:

"Whānau who are wanting to learn more about vaping or going smokefree can contact QuitLine. But we understand that this price increase falls on such a busy time with Christmas, New Year, and the school holidays. Imagine how much more successful price increases could be in motivating wāhine to become smokefree if it weren’t at such a challenging time?"

Text 'Quit' to 4006 to sign up today, start your journey online by visiting quit.org.nz, or call 0800 778 778

To learn more about the potential risks and relative benefits of vaping to quit, click the link to read a recent Hāpai article here http://hapai.co.nz/content/myth-busting-effects-of-vaping