We invited video journalist Hunter Calder to spend some time with quit coach Cassino Smith to find out how our Once and For All programme is helping to get people smokefree.
Local Focus: ‘Why am I smoking?’ Helping pregnant mums quit
Fifteen seconds is all it takes to breathe into a smokerlyzer machine and start the journey to give up cigarettes.
For pregnant mother Nicole Paulse, the journey to stop once and for all has just begun.
She’s just signed up to a four-week programme in the Waikato and a smokerlyzer helps detect how much carbon monoxide is in her breath.
“It’s in the green,” Quit Coach Cassino Smith exclaimed. Now, all Nicole has to do is stay away from the smokes.
It’s a journey Smith knows well. It took her more than 10 years to finally say goodbye to cigarettes.
She got her first taste for tobacco at age five and by her early teens was addicted. She was a regular smoker until she started her journey to quit in 1992.
“I decided that I didn’t want to drink or smoke anymore, that was my turning point and my two-year-old daughter who’s now 28, she’s my reason,” Smith said.
“I always tell her, ‘you were my reason why I gave up smoking and drinking and stuff like that’.”
After she had stopped smoking, Smith tried to get her family and mother to quit. And then her mum was diagnosed with secondary lung cancer.
“I relapsed the last two weeks she was alive, and we all went back to help her through that time. I would be crying thinking ‘why am I smoking when I know that’s killing her’.
“But at the time I didn’t want to do any other substance, I didn’t want to drink because I wanted to be sane. I wanted to have all my faculties when I was around her. But everyone was smoking. It just comforted me for that brief moment.
“But two weeks after she died, that’s when I stopped. Forever. Not one single puff, and it’s been 13 years since she’s been gone,” Smith said.
That personal connection is why Smith “eats, sleeps, walks and talks smoking” to help others give up.
She’s a Quit Coach for the Pinnacle Midland Health Network’s Once and For All programme.
“It just brings me joy, even saving the mums, because they’re my favourite, pregnant mums are my passion, my absolute favourite! They have a life inside them,” Smith said.
It’s something Nicole Paulse can relate to. She’s expecting her third child but believes smoking may have led to the death of her first child who was born at 25 weeks.
“She had congenital abnormalities which meant there were a lot of health issues and she wasn’t developing properly,” Paulse said.
“She wouldn’t survive in her condition, but she was born alive and died in my arms 30-minutes later. I had to have a funeral. I was 20.”
Paulse wants other pregnant mothers to understand that quitting smoking, even just for the pregnancy, can make a big change on how a child develops.
“I smoked through that whole pregnancy and if I knew smoking was that bad… sometimes it’s still hard for me to come to terms with what happened and why my baby didn’t survive.
“I don’t want that to happen again,” Paulse said.
Pregnant women who join the Once and For All programme get a $50 incentive and behavioural support with a dedicated “quit coach”.
If they are still smoke-free four weeks after their target quit date, they receive a further $250 in vouchers.
“For some, it’s a lot,” Smith said. “But then you think about it – in four weeks, if they smoke $200 worth a week, that’s $800 a month.
“Then on the other side, their health begins to improve within 20 minutes of stopping smoking and it gets better and better from there.”
In the last 15 months, Smith has helped more than a hundred and forty people quit smoking.
In the Waikato, 3238 smokers have taken part in the programme since it began in October 2016, and 40 per cent of those have successfully quit.
With people like Smith on the front line, the government’s ambitious target to make New Zealand smokefree by 2025 may just be possible.
Photo: Nicole Paulse with the smokerlyzer machine. Credit: Hunter Calder