Watching children light up a smoke metres from their dead parents was enough to make an Auckland funeral parlour go smokefree.

Steven Davey has run Just Funerals for three years and is devastated by the funerals of young parents who have died from preventable smoking-related diseases. He says deaths from lung cancer, kidney disease and diabetes are common in his parlour.

The start of his cigarette ban coincides with World Smokefree Day today.

About 546,000 Kiwis smoke daily, 15 per cent of the adult population. Every day, on average, 13 people die from a smoking-related disease - or 5000 a year.

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Half of smokers die from a smoking-related illness and on average their deaths will be 14 years earlier than if they didn't smoke.

"It's not nice to see people coming through that have potentially got many years of life left," Davey told the Herald.

"Then we notice their children are smoking as well. They are not old children, they are youth - 16, 18, 20 years old.

"It shocks me. It saddens me. The addiction must be a powerful thing for them to see a parent that's deceased and still continue to smoke."

The 45-year-old will use Smokefree signage starting this week and will have Quitline pamphlets placed discreetly in the parlour. He hoped to prevent people coming through the door "sooner than they have to".

"We can't challenge them, it's not the right time or place to say 'look what's happened to your mum or your dad'.

"It'll be present but I'm not going to shove it in their face. It's a subtle time."

Davey found a new perspective on life when he changed from teaching to the funeral parlour. He believed in making the most of your time, and enjoying good health.

"Don't take things too seriously," he advised.

"There's bigger things in life than material things and first-world problems."

World Smokefree Day's theme is 'It's about whanau' because they are a driving force for many people wishing to protect others from the harms of secondhand smoke.

Today a 20 pack can cost up to $28 and 50g of Port Royal costs $85. The 2016 Budget delivered a tobacco tax increase of 10 per cent per year over four years. The cost of a packet of cigarettes will be about $30 by 2020.

Switching from smoking tobacco to "vaping" e-cigarettes has been suggested as a life-saving alternative, which also has potential to guard against weight gain experienced by ex-smokers.

The Herald spoke to GP Dr Murray Winiata for WSFD last year. He had quit smoking after 22 years by replacing the vice with vaping. A year on and he is still off the tobacco and continues to recommend e-cigs to people who don't want to quit.

Out of those who use vaping to quit he said the success rate in his practice was about 80 per cent, compared with 5 per cent who try nicotine replacement therapy. Winiata said vaping worked "amazingly well" because it fulfilled the psychological element of smoking as well as the chemical.

"Vaping does hold quite an appeal and it's really because of how closely it emulates smoking."

Electronic cigarettes are lawful and their nicotine liquid can legally be imported via the internet for personal use. The "e-juice" will become legal in 2018 to sell in New Zealand.

Public Health England estimates e-cigarettes are about 95 per cent less harmful than smoking, and Britain's College of Physicians has concluded vaping should be widely promoted as a substitute for smoking.

Steven Davey says he is saddened to see young parents come through his business whose lives have been cut short by smoking-related diseases. Photo / Dean Purcell
Steven Davey says he is saddened to see young parents come through his business whose lives have been cut short by smoking-related diseases. Photo / Dean Purcell

Hāpai Te Hauora tobacco control spokeswoman Zoe Hawke wanted tobacco removed from convenience stores - this would reduce aggravated robberies and rates of smoking, she said.

"We want to take away tobacco from every street and dairy and put it somewhere safe. So people don't see tobacco as normal as bread and milk."

Maori women are the most likely to be smokers out of any demographic at 38 per cent. Hawke said they were also the population group feeling the most stress and pressure.

"They're struggling to raise a family. Stress is a big issue for smokers. We really need to think about how to alleviate that stress and support Maori women. Not point the finger at them.

"We do need some bold moves, policy changes as well as stop smoking treatment needs to happen together. We need to get the Maori smoking rate down."

Quitline chief executive Andrew Slater said people were heavily influenced to smoke if their family did. Health followed by quitting for themselves, cost, quitting for family and wanting to be a good role model to their child were the top reasons people chose to forgo the habit.

"Giving up smoking is really hard. People are more likely to succeed when they are supported by a service or a face-to-face provider. Smokefree is great day to put your hand up and give us a call."

The lung tool

A pair of lungs have been developed by the University of Auckland to help people understand the effect of smoking on the organ.

Professor Merryn Tawhai, who led the project, says users can input their age, height and gender to see a 3D model of a normal set of healthy lungs. They can then add the number of cigarettes they smoke per day choosing either: zero, one pack or two packs and then see how their lungs function and their airways changes.

Tawhai said her team wanted to make their research accessible and personal.

"Smoking is not just about getting lung cancer. What's much worse is the damage you do to your lung tissue that will cause you to feel breathless when doing everyday activities.

"It's about that life limitation."

Access the lungs here.

Immediate benefits

• Within 20 minutes of giving up smoking, your blood pressure, body temperature and pulse will return to normal.
• Within eight hours, your smoker's breath disappears, the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops and your oxygen level rises to normal.
• Within 24 hours, your chance of a heart attack decreases.
• Within three days, your breathing is easier and you can run without wheezing.

Where to get help

Quitline - free call 0800 778 778. People who use Quitline's services and support are five times more likely to successfully quit than those who try to quit alone.
• Text QUIT to 4006 to get sent texts to motivate you as you quit.
• Nicotine patches, gum and lozenges can double someone's chances of successfully quitting. They are $5 each when you order them from Quitline by phone or online.

​Tips for quitting

• Remember the 4 Ds if you get cravings - Delay, Drink water, Deep breathe, Do something else
• Try nicotine patches, gum and lozenges
• Avoid situations that make you want to smoke
• Make your home smokefree and get rid of ashtrays
• Cut down on alcohol
• Go to Quitline for more tips.