Care­givers stub out the smokes

Marlborough Express - The Saturday Express, Marlborough - - FRONT PAGE - SA­MAN­THA GEE

Ann Ponga first started smok­ing as a teenager.

But in re­cent years her habit has made her cough un­con­trol­lably to the point where she can no longer travel by plane as it made breath­ing dif­fi­cult.

Ponga’s de­clin­ing health and a desire to travel over­seas were the rea­sons the care­giver signed up to kick the habit with sev­eral col­leagues.

‘‘I never thought I would ever give up smok­ing,’’ she said.’’I thought, I’ve got to do this if I want to achieve goals in my life.’’

Fel­low care­giver Joanna Holmes said when she first heard some staff at the Oak­woods Re­tire­ment Vil­lage were go­ing to sign up to a Nel­son Marl­bor­ough Health (NMH) quit smok­ing pro­gramme, she made a ‘‘half-hearted’’ de­ci­sion to join in.

In the end, Holmes cred­its the sup­port of the group with get­ting her through.

The group met with a quit coach once a week, the car­bon monox­ide level of their breath was mon­i­tored and they had a chance to share tips with each other.

‘‘It was just fan­tas­tic be­ing part of a group be­cause we could show up ev­ery week and talk about how we were go­ing and the dif­fi­cul­ties we were hav­ing.

‘‘It was just a mat­ter of get­ting through week by week,’’ Holmes said.

She had been a smoker for 26 years and had tried to give up once be­fore.

Holmes now had more en­ergy and could go for a walk to the ser­vice sta­tion with­out get­ting puffed.

‘‘It’s such a good feel­ing,’’ she said. ‘‘My daugh­ter hated me smok­ing and she’s been re­ally sup­port­ive.’’

Food tasted bet­ter and she also had more money for things like shop­ping.

Ponga and Holmes are among seven of the Oak­woods Re­tire­ment Vil­lage staff who have quit smok­ing.

It has now been three months since ei­ther woman had a cig­a­rette and both their lives and wal­lets are hap­pier for it.

The pair es­ti­mate their habit cost them around $90 a week. Holmes said cig­a­rettes were of­ten the first thing she pur­chased after get­ting paid.

‘‘I ac­tu­ally don’t know how I af­forded to smoke now,’’ she said.

NMH health pro­moter Gayle Hay said the­group par­tic­i­pated in a seven-week pro­gramme with the sup­port of a quit coach and had ac­cess to nico­tine patches, vapes, mouth sprays and med­i­ca­tion.

‘‘We like to say we dou­ble peo­ple’s chances of be­com­ing smoke­free rather than if they quit alone.’’

Oak­woods Re­tire­ment Vil­lage man­ager Steve Davis said he was happy to sup­port staff in their bid to quit.

‘‘As a re­formed smoker my­self, I un­der­stood the pain they were go­ing through.’’

He fur­ther in­cen­tivised them by of­fer­ing $100 to those who suc­ceeded in re­main­ing smoke­free after the pro­gramme ended.

‘‘We re­ally tried to make it as suc­cess­ful as we could.’’

Both Ponga and Holmes say they have given up the cig­a­rettes for good.

‘‘I could never go back to smok­ing, it’s the best thing ever to have given up,’’ Ponga said. She al­ready has a hol­i­day booked in Phuket, Thai­land for next year.

The pair think if once heavysmok­ers like them­selves can kick the habit, any­one can.

‘‘You have to do it for you,’’ Ponga said.


Oak­woods Re­tire­ment Vil­lage staff Ann Ponga, left, and Joanna Holmes, right, are part of a pro­gramme run by Gayle Hay from Nel­son Marl­bor­ough Health to help peo­ple quit.

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