Kaitaia mother Emma-Jade Nathan regrets contributing to her children's asthma and breathing problems through smoking and is calling on smoking parents to quit their habit for the sake of their little ones.

The mother-of-three first tried cigarettes in a toilet at Kaitaia College when she was 15 and said she wasted about $50 a week smoking between 10 and 12 cigarettes a day. If she drank, she would smoke more.

Now 31, she gave up the habit three months ago after enrolling in the Wero Stop Smoking Challenge with Te Hiku Hauora and said the rewards were already huge. A 10 per cent hike in tobacco tax on January 1 each year for the next four years was another reason for people to quit smoking, she said.

Today is World Smokefree Day and Ms Nathan is calling on smokers to stop and seek help from agencies such as Te Hiku Hauora, Quitline and the Ministry of Health.


She tried to stop when pregnant with her third child, Xaviah, whose placenta she described as an "open wound" from her smoking, but even then she didn't manage to quit.

"Looking back, in terms of my smoking, I know it all contributed to my children's asthma and breathing problems so there is definitely guilt there," she said.

"I find I have a bit more breath now. I notice the smell on other smokers too and I can't believe how strong it is. I'm like 'oh my God' I was smelling like that and holding my baby?"

The smoking challenge involved a co-ordinated team effort where people who quit smoking were offered smoking cessation support and advice, including breath-testing checks with a 'smokelyser' machine and other incentives. A colleague encouraged her to enrol.

"I wanted to quit for three reasons " for my whanau, for my finances and for my health. Life is too short," she said.

Looking back, Ms Nathan said she took up smoking because everyone around her, including close family members, smoked which she viewed as a typical thing to do.

She is feeling proud of herself now and gets to spend more time with her children.

Ms Nathan said she no longer has to say 'get out of my smoke' or 'I won't be long, just give me a minute' to her family.

Once the 10 per cent tax on tobacco per year is in place, a pack of 20 cigarettes will cost about $30, one of the highest prices in the world.

The increase is part of measures designed to make New Zealand smoke-free by 2025. On average, a smoker spends $2800 a year on cigarettes.