Thirty cigarettes a day, maybe more in the weekend, was a standard day of smoking for 40-year-old Kane Akurangi (Ngati Porou, Ngati Kahungunu) of Gisborne.
The Senior IT Technician was having a cigarette every half hour he was awake, and it was costing him about $30 a day, $210 a week, $10,920 a year.
Kane says those figures didn’t worry him at the time. “I was a typical Māori male. I didn’t care at all. Even when he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and a thyroid disorder in February 2015, he didn’t change his cavalier attitude to life. “I thought bugger it. I will die happy doing what I want to do.”
But then a friend, younger than Kane, was also given a short sharp wake-up call about his health and Kane’s way of thinking began to change. “I saw the transition he was going through, and he was losing weight, and getting healthy, and the penny began to drop.”
Not long after, this father of four and Child Youth and Family in-home transitional carer of six, took part in a WERO Challenge. WERO is about teams of people quitting smoking together rather than individuals trying to go it alone. It was developed by the University of Auckland in a bid to help Māori and Pacific people quit smoking (though anyone can take part). Participants are supported by health practitioners and are tested each week with a smokerlyzer.
Kane said yes to being in a whānau and friends group. Registration involved signing up to a smokefree programme like the one offered at Tūranga Health in Tairāwhiti. It also involved adding one special member to the team – the coach. This person had to be a non-smoker and someone who would support his or her smoking team members 100 percent in their smokefree quest. For Kane, this person happened to be his wife and number one supporter, Maida. “She has been amazing. She was the coach and the hero and I couldn’t have done it without her.”
Every week Kane and the rest of the group were committed to their WERO meeting with Tūranga Health smoking cessation coaches. As well as education, support, and smokefree patches and lozenges if they wanted, group members had to blow into the smokerlyzer machine which would reveal if they have any carbon monoxide on their breath. It was this regular catch up that kept Kane on the straight and narrow.
“I had tried to quit smoking before by myself but this was different. Having to go every week was good for me. I would put it into all my diaries and I knew I had to be there, Tuesday, 3pm, no excuses.”
Tūranga Health’s smoking cessation programme is Aukati Kaipapa. Rather than going cold turkey the smoking cessation coaches Christine Nepia and Mere Waihi developed a plan with Kane to help him reduce his smoking and achieve a target quit date.
Kane remembers the first time he chose NOT to have a cigarette. He was driving to Ruatoria for work and normally he’d reach for a cigarette as soon as he got into the car. This time, with the words of his quit coach ringing in his ears and the united quit group behind him, he held off for as long as he could. He got to Tokomaru Bay before he succumbed. “I was bursting at the seams” he remembers, but it was the first step towards cutting down.
Slowly but surely the cigarettes he smokes has reduced every week. Six months on he has one cigarette a week. He admits it’s an odd number of cigarettes to have, and he doesn’t really know why he is still having it, but it won’t be for much longer.
As well as a smokefree journey, Kane has also taken more interest in his fitness and set himself a goal of dropping to 100kg which he has just achieved. He joined a social fitness group called Mekefit and hit Kaiti Hill and the Oneroa Walkway as often as he could.
With the help of friends, whānau, and Tūranga Health, Kane can’t believe the transformation he has gone through. He says Tūranga Health was “100 percent” important to him.
“They motivated me. They always did what they said they would. They pushed me to come back to the sessions and it’s what I needed.”
“My whole mindset has changed. I am inspired to finish things. You have got to get your mind right and then set a target. It’s about taking one step at the time and surrounding yourself with support.”
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