Te Huia Hapimana comes from a long line of smokers. His parents and seven older siblings all smoked, leading him to pick up his first cigarette at just 14 years old.
Now 60, Hapimana, from Hamilton, has broken his habit for good.
Before deciding to quit, Hapimana was hospitalised for chest pain and difficulties breathing only to find out he had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), also referred to as underlying heart failure. This condition is caused by long-term exposure to lung irritants, such as smoke, and also took his father’s life at 50 and his mother at 54.
“When the doctor told me what I had, I got very scared. I couldn’t say anything. I knew this time it was serious,” says Hapimana.
In the Waikato region there are 43,700 smokers aged 15 years and over – 15.5 per cent of the population. Smoking increases the risk of developing heart disease and cancer and is the leading cause of preventable death in New Zealand.
Hapimana smoked three to four packets of cigarettes a day until his hospital admission. Then he went cold turkey.
He was referred to a six week stop smoking programme and says the support he received throughout is why he’s now smokefree, and staying that way.
The programme, dubbed ‘Once and For All’ offers intensive behavioural support for smokers with a dedicated Quit Coach.
The programme, facilitated by Pinnacle Midlands Health Network, is available for free at GP practices and health providers in Hamilton and Waikato, and is internationally-proven to work.
Pinnacle’s network lead of clinical services Puamiria Maaka says it’s the individual and group support that sets Once and For All apart from other quit-smoking programmes.
“We have a great group of health professionals who have been trained up as quit coaches, and they all have empathy and connect with smokers on a personal level,” he says.
“Many of them know what it’s like to quit – so they’re coming from a place of experience but also respect for the smoker and the journey they’re on.
“The number of enrolments in our programme has doubled in the past three months which is showing us we’re on the right track – but we won’t be happy until we’re 100% smoke free.”
The Ministry of Health has set a target of a smokefree New Zealand by 2025.
Still surrounded by a family of smokers, Hapimana is happy with where his life is headed.
“I realised I wasn’t happy with myself when I was a smoker, because I was tied to something. I would always have a smoke between my teeth or between my fingers.
“Sometimes I would even find myself picking up half-smoked smokes from the gutter and now I can see how painfully sick I could have gotten.
“Now I’m finding out who I am without the smokes and it’s a good feeling.”
About Once and For All
Smokers can sign up to the Once and For All programme online, through their GP or community health provider or by phone. Once enrolled in the programme they pick a target quit date and are supported through their journey with a Quit Coach, and can take part in group or individual support sessions in their home, workplace or in-clinic. Smokers who quit successfully receive a gift voucher to the value of $50.
Once and For All also offers tailored support for pregnant women trying to quit smoking.
To sign up, visit onceandforall.co.nz or phone 0800 6623 4522.