Aramoana is a passionate smokefree advocate. She recently shared her life journey in becoming smokefree to members of parliament at the Beehive last month. Her mantra is RESEARCH your info, to INFORM yourself, to EDUCATE others, and ADVOCATE truthfully. This perspective is one she shares on the internet on her Youtube show, ‘The Ohm Kiwis’, which has helped to support whānau make informed choices on vaping to quit tobacco.
E ngā mana, e ngā reo,
E ngā karanga maha e huihui nei, tēnā tātou katoa.
Ko Taranaki, ko Parapara, ko Maungatapu oku maunga.
Ko Taranaki, ko Te Atiawa, Ko Ngāti Tama me Ngāi Pākehā oku iwi.
Ko Aramoana du Feu tōku ingoa.
Tihei mauri ora
Aramoana, you spoke last month at the Vaping Forum at the Beehive in which many other passionate smokefree advocates attended. Could you share your kōrero around your upbringing and why you’re an advocate?
Since the day I was born, I have suffered severe respiratory issues, being in and out of hospital with chronic asthma and a weak immune system, it was just the beginning of my physical struggles in life. A simple cold or flu would end up as weeks of bronchitis, or winter long pneumonia.
I had my first cigarette when I was 10 years old. Like many young ones, I nicked a couple of ciggies from Dad’s pack- my cuzzy would do the same and we smoked them down the back shed on my mate’s farm.
In my mid through to late teens, during winter I would stop smoking, due to being so terribly ill every year. When spring rolled around, I would pick up my pack of Marlboro tallies again as though I had never stopped. I have always called myself a hypocrite smoker; because of my health issues – I should know better.
For about 24 years, I have fought smoking’s addictions but not anymore.
Which brings us to vaping. How was it introduced to you and how do you see vaping?
I personally see vaping as an alternative to fight more than one type of addiction.
I was a complete skeptic when I first saw my friends vaping here in Aotearoa. I was one of the many saying that this would be a passing trend, that would never catch on or help people give up smoking. But I was so wrong.
A few months after vaping first entered my world, I started going through a very long and stressful period, which was affecting my physical and mental health in several ways. One day I came home, reeking of cigarettes and my flatmate goes… “here just try vaping properly. See if it helps you at all.”
This is also back when nicotine was not legally available in New Zealand made e-juice and those who chose to vape that did not buy already nic’d liquid from overseas, had to import it ourselves and add it at home.
What changes did you and your whānau see from using vaping to quit tobacco?
It was obvious to my whānau the health benefits I was experiencing. That first winter in 2014 I was vaping, was the first in 5 years that I did not get pneumonia. That was the real winner right there. Not just that I was feeling and seeing those changes in myself, but that the benefits were visible to my whanau and friends.
When I first started vaping, it became clear to me, that this was helping me in several aspects of my world. I could breathe easily! Unlike how I felt after EVERY single smoke. I noticed that I didn’t smell like an ashtray, my taste buds were experiencing new and exciting adventures with these e-liquids that we could create ourselves, AND by vaping the candy flavours of all the lollies I love, I stopped craving all the sugar I had been eating!
On the 13th of June, I will have my 5 year “Vapeversary”. This is the date from when I became smoke free, made the switch completely and consider myself a non-smoker.
However, I am one of those that fall into the category of “an addictive personality”. For me it is SO not just about nicotine. It is also about hand-to-mouth and habitual addiction.
For as long as I can remember, I have been a nail biter. This stems from anxiety and other mental health ailments that I (and many others) fight, but no matter how mentally healthy I may be, I struggle to beat my demon that is hand-to-mouth addiction. Growing up suffering from OCD, I developed bad eating habits and an unhealthy lolly addiction.
Mental health is a reoccurring theme we see in the smokefree space, in that it is linked so strongly to smoking. With this, we’re seeing some mental health units develop more progressive policies that will see vaping separated from their smoking policies. Can you share any whakaaro on the mental health/ addictions link?
Those habits of having a coffee or tea, or socialising with friends having a drink – those are the times many struggle to not pick up a ciggie. To be fair, unless you know addiction in some form or another, you do not get how hard it truly is for some to just stop cold turkey. Yes, many have done it, some with patches, gum or another Nicotine Replacement Therapy product. The mental health strain through those avenues is unreal, but nothing has helped me stop smoking cigarettes like vaping has.
Those of us in the Mental Health sector struggle more than most at many things in life. Stopping smoking is no less of a struggle than alcohol or drug addiction. Its difference being that over the generations it became accepted in society- much the same as drinking.
Your Youtube channel on vaping has enabled you to support other people, particularly wāhine in going smokefree. Our amazing kaimahi, Katarina, has done a separate kōrero on this which will be available next newsletter, but for quit coaches who might be reading now, could you share the kind of information you’d give whānau who might be interested?
I had decided that I was going to become an advocate of some sort for vaping in Aotearoa, to help those I could switch to this amazing new technology, which could save lives.
However, I do not push vaping on anyone, but I will talk if people want the information. Educating smokers, non-smokers and anti-vapers alike. I also discuss proper vaping etiquette with new and old vapers. No matter the argument about being healthier, that is no reason to be disrespectful to anyone. Non-smoker or smoker alike. If you couldn’t smoke there before, then don’t vape there either! It is a basic human right to choose what you are doing in your space, but do not invade anyone else’s space either. Don’t be “that guy”.
I became a voice that is loud and proud about vaping, about sharing knowledge to those who wanted to learn – to inform. Especially to any of my Māori whānau that expressed a want to quit smoking.