Lynley Bilby

Lynley Bilby is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Team now puff fresh air, not killer smoke

Teammates helped Simone Neilson (front, right) to give up tobacco. Photo / APN
Teammates helped Simone Neilson (front, right) to give up tobacco. Photo / APN

Keen netballer Simone Neilson lost two close family members within months to smoking-related cancers.

Even so, the 29-year-old mother continued smoking.

Now it's been three months since Neilson had her last cigarette, and she's crediting Auckland University's Wero quit smoking competition and her Gisborne Horouta premier grade netball team.

"I spend so much time with these girls. It's hard to quit on your own. A big part in helping me kick it was them doing the programme too."

The Wero programme, run by the university's Tobacco Control Research Centre, is a nationwide team stop-smoking competition.

The team with the most smokefree members after three months wins and its nominated charity gets a cash prize.

Nearly 700 people throughout New Zealand took part in this year's competition.

Horouta coach Charnelle Rutene said the team joined because a player has children struggling with asthma.

She said apart from the buzz of being one of the winners of the web participation prize, the team had gained health benefits.

"I can feel the difference. There's no more gasping for breath, hands on knees."

Said Neilson: "We still do our social things but smokes are not an option. We've just decided that. It's not a journey that's over yet but I'm pretty confident I've got it this time."

- Herald on Sunday

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