Fefine Tonga moe ifi tapaka: A qualitative study to explore Tongan female tobacco smoking & cessation in the Auckland region.

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Linda Palavi
Vili Nosa


Tonga, Smoking, Smoking Cessation, Kakala, Pacific Health




Tongan female smokers’ smoking experiences have manifested within a realm of socioeconomic and cultural conditions in New Zealand with cessation service engagement relatively low. Due to the projected tobacco burden attributed to Pacific women, pertinent research proves vital to bettering understandings of smoking and cessation within this group. This study explored the knowledge and experiences of smoking and smoking cessation services among Tongan women aged 16 years and over, living in the Auckland region.


This qualitative research design utilised the Kakala model to ensure processes were culturally appropriate and meaningful. Data was collected through eight face-to-face semi-structured interviews transcribed by the researcher and employed the toli, teu and luva process from the Kakala model to form relevant themes.


The findings suggest smoking among Tongan females is a social vector that marks independence and maintains friendships, despite known adverse health effects and stigma. It is characterised as stress relief that has habituated into day-to-day routine for most. Their aspirations to live longer for their family is a strong motivator but quitting remains difficult and should be done autonomously by the individual.

Tongan female smokers stated smoking cessation services as ineffective and need to be adapted and consulted by and within the community. Stop smoking services should encourage autonomy among Tonga women in order to improve utilisation and engagement. Service delivery for Tongan female smokers needs to be on-going and long-term support reoriented within the community for more Tongan women to become completely smokefree.


Tongan female smoking in New Zealand is comprised of experiences surrounding friendships, family and culture. This study concludes that although smoking harms are widely known, cessation service delivery can be transformed by utilizing existing Tongan cultural roles such as that of the mehikitanga (paternal aunt) to encourage non-smoking among extended female generations.

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