This month we hear from Te Hira Patioro Hawke, also known as Uncle Chief, a lifetime member of the Orākei community and lifetime smoker who has recently switched from smoking half a pack of cigarettes a day to vaping occasionally.

Before quitting, Te Hira would tell his brothers that stopping smoking was dangerous, “[I’d say], ‘You all gave up smoking my bros and now you’ve all got triple bypasses.’” Nervous jokes aside, after 44 years of being addicted to smoking cigarettes Uncle Chief found quitting easier than he’d thought; “You know after all these years it wasn’t that hard. What kept me on track was the money end of it and I said, ‘What a waste of money. I should’ve seen this before.’”

Uncle Chief lives with his partner, Wendy, and between the two of them they used to smoke one packet of cigarettes every day, which amounted to a total of $175 per week, $700 per month or $8,400 per year. “Cigarettes just went up and I said no I need to get off it, because they went up to $32. Now, I always see $35 on the packet. Even with that, I should’ve seen $25 on the packet [before] and now I just look at the packet and say ‘That’s f***** up, that’s a lot of money.’ That was a lot of money. People were telling me but I wouldn’t listen.”

While on holiday with his nephew and niece, Uncle Chief was offered the use of their spare vape, and since then he’s hardly looked back. Starting off with nicotine in his vape juices, Uncle Chief has chosen to make the switch to quit nicotine, “I’ve been trying to use the ones with zero [nicotine] in it. The fruity ones have been helping.”

Staying off cigarettes has been mostly easy for Uncle Chief, “I had one or two cigarettes, when the vape ran out.” Uncle Chief continues to vape with support from his partner who has also quit smoking. Whānau is the driving factor that’s kept Uncle Chief smoke-free. “I s’pose, the whānau said ‘We’re not giving you any more cigarettes Uncle’, they were very hard on me.”

Now, with more money in their pocket, Uncle Chief and Wendy have started planning future travels; “We’ve booked a cruise. It was a $1 deposit and you pay so much a week and we had it. And we can go to Aussie to see the mokos more often, I s’pose more than I have been because of that extra money. It helps.” With a plan to spend more time travelling and seeing whānau, Uncle Chief is hoping to eventually quit the vape and has noticed that he is vaping less since he first started; “More or less during the day I don’t vape anymore.”

Uncle Chief hopes that his story can help others to quit smoking “I guess I started when I was 16, because of peer pressure at school. I just thought it was a big joke, sneaking around school with my cousins. I well and truly hope it [his story] can help others, but it’s still up to them aye. I can’t persuade them not to, I’d be a hypocrite if I did.” However, if any of Uncle Chief’s whānau or community ask about his journey toward quit smoking, he’ll be happy to share his story.