The couple, originally from Waitaki Valley, moved to Cromwell to retire after a life of merino sheep farming – Leone says Geoff was the most superior wool grower in New Zealand and it wasn’t uncommon to watch him shear a sheep while walking up a hill and all with a cigarette in his mouth.
Leone started smoking at 16-years-old because her sister-in-law was a nurse and smoking. “I thought if she was smoking why couldn’t I?” Leone’s habit progressed to 25 tailor-made cigarettes per day in what would become a 63-year habit.
Geoff says he started pinching his father’s smokes in his early teens. His habit progressed to a 50gram a day, a habit he maintained for years – around 60 he estimated. “I always had a smoke hanging out my mouth.”
Both had tried to stop smoking in the past, Geoff once for three years and Leone once for three months, but they loved the habit too much and found it extremely difficult to stop for good.
Between them, they would spend $400 a fortnight on cigarettes and not even think twice, they said.
Recently, Geoff visited his GP who told him it was time to think about stopping smoking due to a rattle in his chest and referred him to the Southern Stop Smoking Service. Alison Milne visited the pair, where Leone made it clear she too wanted to stop.
The pair found it easier to stop smoking this time around especially with the support of Alison. Stopping together was also helpful, they said, adding that their last cigarette was shared together on the morning of June 2nd.
They were both surprised at how easy it was to stop, although admitted it was tough in the beginning. They each used patches, gum and lozenges.
Neither miss the habit and said they have more energy, food tastes different, and the rattle in Geoff’s chest is gone.
Having been so proud of her effort to stop smoking, Leone discussed it while getting her hair tended to by the rest home hairdresser Bev Quayle. The hairdresser was intrigued and asked how she did it, which leads us to our next inspirational story …