Freedom from Smoking: Voices of Change

Stories from people who have quit smoking, offering hope and encouragement to others on the same journey.


In the backdrop of World Smokefree May, a month dedicated to championing smokefree living, Western Bay of Plenty Primary Health Organisation (WBOP PHO) and Hāpainga Stop Smoking Service launched Freedom from Smoking: Voices of Change. This series of videos shares powerful stories from people who have taken the brave step to quit smoking, embarking on a life-changing journey.

“These stories are unique and inspiring. One of the biggest themes that struck me was the positive impact quitting smoking has on all aspects of people’s lives. It gives individuals a superpower to overcome other addictions or start new healthy habits,” said Emma Walker, Quit Smoke Practitioner at WBOP PHO/Hāpainga and the driving force behind the project.

In the “Freedom from Smoking: Voices of Change” videos, a diverse group of Bay of Plenty residents share their journeys to becoming smokefree. Bronson Amoroa from Whakatāne describes his struggle through various quit-smoking programmes before finding success with Hāpainga. “I thought it was my fault, for starting to smoke in the first place,” he says. Julia Dyer from Tauranga reflects on the benefits of stopping smoking. “I can breathe better. It also helped me financially. I can pay my bills without any worries. I am there for my kids. I feel have more free time on my hands now,” she describes.

As we immerse ourselves in their narratives, we are reminded that with the right support and determination, anyone can overcome the grip of smoking. Helena Brown from Whakatāne decided to quit smoking due to health concerns. “It was hard to stop really. I was living amongst other people who smoked, but the Quit Smoke Coach never gave up on me. Without Hāpainga, I think I would still be picking up a cigarette today”, she affirms.

Freedom from Smoking: Voices of Change is about real people finding the courage to change their lives. It is about showing that quitting smoking is possible and worth the effort. Watch the series, and spread the word to your whānau and friends. Together, we can create a healthier, smokefree future.

Watch Now

The episodes of Freedom from Smoking: Voices of Change are available on YouTube. The series has seven episodes featuring the stories of Bronson Amoroa, Helena Brown, Julia Dyer, Julie Lamont (coming soon!), Shalea and Paerangi Pickering, Quit Smoking Coaches Candy Blackwell and Dani Noblett.

The spark behind the project

The Freedom from Smoking: Voices of Change project was created to spotlight the personal journeys of individuals who have successfully quit smoking. A collaboration between the WBOP PHO and Hapāinga, the initiative was led by Emma Walker, Stop Smoking Practitioner for both organisations. Alongside videographer Derrin Richards, she interviewed five residents from the Bay of Plenty region who had quit smoking with the support of the Hāpainga Services and were eager to share their stories.

Emma explains, “We want to reinvigorate awareness around the seriousness of smoking tobacco. Although vaping is very much a hot topic, smoking tobacco is still prevalent, particularly for our Māori population. It is still the number one cause of preventable diseases leading to death in New Zealand”.

The idea for the project came to Emma during a conversation with a client suffering from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). “In between her taking short, concentrated breaths, she relayed to me how if she could turn back the clock, she would tell her 15-year-old self not to pick up that first cigarette. With tears in her eyes, she said that if she could, she would tell every young person not to start smoking because it’s just not worth it,” says Emma.