The national smokefree 2025 deadline is coming closer and to get everyone on board, the Government has committed $8 million for six Pacific stop smoking programmes.
Associate Ministers of Health Dr Ayesha Verrall and Aupito William Sio announced the funding commitment at Hamilton's Pacific Island community Trust K'aute Pasifika on Friday and also announced the establishment of a dedicated Smokefree Pacific Advisory Group.
The funding will be distributed across six Pacific health providers, including K'aute Pasifika, over the next four years.
The other five contractors are Pacific Health Plus in Porirua, Pacific Health Services Hutt Valley, Tangata Atumotu in Christchurch, South Seas Healthcare in South Auckland and The Fono in West Auckland.
Smokefree New Zealand statistics show around 5000 New Zealanders die each year because of smoking.
Verrall says the tools used so far to help people quit smoking haven't helped everyone.
"Smoking-related harm is still widespread in our Pacific communities, with Pacific people being overrepresented across negative health outcomes caused by smoking."
She says the funding will be used to "deliver tailored stop smoking services" for the country's Pacific communities.
Sio says just like the Samoan proverb e fofo e le alamea le alamea says, the cure for being poisoned by the crown of thorns starfish alamea is the starfish itself (as it is believed to be able to suck out the poison when turned on its back), New Zealand's Pacific themselves communities hold the solutions to help their people to stop smoking.
"The Pacific providers live and work in their communities and have established relationships and trust with them. This [government] investment will help support the delivery of culturally appropriate and innovative smoking programmes that best suit the needs of the Pacific communities."
He says he felt like he belonged to "smokers anonymous" as he used to smoke himself until quitting in December 2000.
"I didn't really want to start, but growing up every adult male around me smoked and we kids ended up puffing on something that was thrown away."
Verrall says when she was a doctor in Wellington, she saw the impact smoking has on people's health first-hand.
"What we need to do is de-normalise smoking."
K'aute Pasifika CEO Leaupepe Rachel Karalus says with their share of the funding, the trust was developing a quit smoking programme around waka ama.
"Our people are people of the moana ... so it's only fitting our programme utilises the waka ama."
She says the programme will be based on the Pacific models of care and connect people with culture and identity.
"So participants develop behaviour and strategies to stop smoking."
The announcement was attended by smokefree New Zealand advocates including the team of Māori Public Health company Hapai to Hauora and their CEO Selah Hart, and director of Pacific health action initiative Tala Pasifika, Lealailepule Edward Cowley.
K'aute Pasifika founders Peta and Noel Karalus, Nga Metua Goodwright, Nemani and Asenaca Delaibatiki, Sione Viliami and Mata Pasisi also attended.
The rollout of the new services follows the launch of Smokefree May, a month of events across the country leading up to World Smokefree Day on May 31. The key message of the Smokefree May organisers is 'We are backing you', showing support for people who are trying to quit smoking.