She used to get Mongrel Mob members to buy cigarettes when she was just nine, but now television modelling celebrity Danielle Hayes is celebrating kicking a 12-year habit.
The 21-year-old, who described the 2010 Next Top Model competition as her “ticket out of Kawerau”, quit smoking last week.
Hayes was nine when she started.
“I’m not trying to bag my hometown or anything but the river and the playground gets boring after a while, so you go ‘Oh let’s start smoking’,” Hayes said.
Ash (Action on Smoking and Health) director Ben Youdan said 600 of 30,000 year 10 students in Ash’s 2010 annual survey said they had started smoking at age seven.
“The kids who smoked, pretty much all of them had their first puff when they were younger than 14.
“The youngest were picking them up as young as seven.”
He said the biggest contributing factors were parents who smoked, which made them three times more likely to take up the habit, being raised in a poor area, and ethnicity.
The 2011 survey showed Maori girls were four times more likely to smoke than non-Maori girls and Maori boys three times more likely to smoke than Pakeha boys.
Hayes famously said on her first episode of Next Top Model that her greatest achievement coming from Kawerau was not getting pregnant and avoiding jail.
She describes herself as a “mischief” child who would get members of the Mongrel Mob to buy her cigarettes before she was old enough to buy her own.
“They always got me cigarettes without a doubt, if I gave them a couple of cigarettes out of my packet.
“My parents caught on when I was about 10 so I had a year of getting away with it. For my 12 years of smoking my mum and dad were constantly on my back about it.”
She funded her own habit with lawn mowing and a paper run.
Results from Ash’s 2011 survey showed regular smoking in year 10 students had dropped from 10 per cent to 8.2 per cent compared with 2010. Daily smoking in Maori girls had the biggest year on year drop from 16.3 per cent to 11.3 per cent.
The biggest influence on the drop, Youdan believes, is the April 2010 taxation on cigarettes.
Hayes hopes stopping smoking will help her be a role model for children.
She was asked in Kawerau by a 12-year-old recently to buy cigarettes, but declined.
Stopping smoking has been gradual for the model who dropped from a packet to just three a day, one month ago, before stopping altogether last week.
“I went to a concert up in Auckland on Saturday and drank and smoked excessively and the following morning I didn’t want to buy another packet of cigarettes.”
Hayes has been concentrating on photography to take her mind off smoking and plans to go overseas this year to pursue her modelling career.
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