A stroll through Hastings last Thursday afternoon proved an enlightening experience.
Or should I say "lighting" experience? Because every few metres, on every street I walked, people were lighting up.
Without generalising, 100 per cent of the people I saw smoking were Maori.
It disturbed me. The smokers I saw didn't look as if they could afford this expensive habit, either in cost or health terms.
That 46 per cent of Maori smoke compared to 21 per cent of non-Maori, a fact I learned later, explains what I saw in Hastings.
Juxtapose the next night at Pandora Pond in Napier's Ahuriri, where the Ironmaori crew continued to put the finishing touches on their training for this weekend's event.
Happy faces on healthy bodies, conversation and laughter, exertion in the water, youngsters training for Friday's Tamariki and Rangatahi event, signs of prosperity - nice cars and sports equipment - not a whiff of cigarette smoke in the air.
It was dreadful Maori health statistics that drove Heather Skipworth to start her half-ironman event, which is now a stable of four events (three in Hawke's Bay, one in Wellington) featuring close to 4000 competitors.
On that front - those who have accepted the challenge - the battle is being won.
But clearly across town, not to pick on Hastings, or Maori for that matter, there are many still in the grips of an addiction, who will face a further price increase in the New Year.
Hopefully some of those I saw on the streets last week will be in Ahuriri on Friday and Saturday to see grandparents, parents, aunties, uncles, brothers, sisters and children taking on the Ironmaori challenge. I can guarantee they will be inspired, hopefully enough to head across to the Quitline team who are in town to compete and save lives.
Quitting smoking isn't easy. In the end it's a choice that requires iron will. But it can be done.
There are many taking on the Ironmaori challenge on Saturday, Maori and European, who have proven that by facing down their own demons.
Come on whanau. Do it for the whanau, and a Smokefree Aotearoa by 2025.
Anyone seeking support can contact a Quitline team member at the event, call the Quitline free on 0800 778 778, or visit www.quit.org.nz for online support. Quitline can also put people in contact with face-to-face support to complement their services and provide total quitting support.