12 October, 2017. Taukatelata Vakalahi, who works for Tonga Police, said he once spent 70% of his family's savings on cigarettes.
Mr Vakalahi smoked one packet of cigarettes a day until he noticed he was having problems breathing while singing at a kava party in September 2015.
When he visited the doctor he was told that he had a severe respiratory problem due to his tobacco use. After 1 month in hospital, doctors told him that smoking was going to kill him.
"From there I promised myself that I will quit smoking forever", Mr Vakalahi said. "There was nothing to make me go back and smoke again or even touch a cigarette. Even when I go to Kava parties where my friends are smoking, I still don't smoke", he said.
One year after quiting Mr Vakalahi realized how much money he had spent on cigarettes. "When I think back now, I spent almost $4,500 every year. I had a small income from my salary but almost 70% of it I spent on cigarettes and maybe only 25-30% on my family", he said.
Dr Reynold 'Ofanoa, Chief Medical Officer of Public Health at the Ministry of Health, said "The government has been increasing taxes on all tobacco products in Tonga over the past few years. Making tobacco less affordable is one of the most effective ways to motivate smokers to quit for good".
The Ministry of Health estimates that Tongans who smoke a packet of cigarettes a day will now save about $5,500 per year if they quit. "That's more money for you and your family for things that matter", Dr 'Ofanoa said.
The Ministry of Health have created an online calculator to help smokers find out exactly how much they can save by quiting: www.tapuifitonga.com
Smokers motivated to quit by the campaign can also receive free advice and support from fully trained Ministry of Health staff through a newly established toll-free Quitline (0800 333).
Mr Vakalahi said he's feeling healthier than ever before now that he's breathing problems have stopped. "I believe that smoking is a waste of money and nothing good comes out of it for yourself or your family. It's just a waste".