A 16 year-old Marlborough Girls' College student will be representing the region next week at a national forum discussing how to make New Zealand smoke free.
Lamosa Tepu will be the only youth representative at the Otago University Smokefree Outdoor forum in Wellington on February 23, listening to lectures and discussing ideas with politicians and health experts on ways to make outdoor public places smoke free.
Lamosa has been youth advocate for Smokefree Marlborough since March and has a strong personal motivation to take on smoking as both her parents and her older brother smoke. Lamosa was part of a group of smokefree youth advocates who visited Bohally Intermediate school last year where she spoke about her family's history with smoking.
"I told them about my grandad and how he passed away. He had cancer in his neck. I told them about my mum, that she's my main project. She's been smoking since she was 12 or 13."
Last month her father was diagnosed with emphysema, caused by his smoking. The diagnosis has encouraged her brother to try and quit.
While Lamosa tried smoking once she did not like it and she said it was not hard being the only non-smoker in her family.
"My parents are proud of me and it's a boost of confidence since my whole family smokes saying `I don't and I don't want to be like them'."
Along with not smoking she is hoping to make another family first next year becoming the first member of her family to finish high school.
Being the only youth representative at the forum would be scary Lamosa said, but she would not be afraid to speak up if things were said she did not agree with.
It is not the first time Lamosa has spoken up to policy makers in Wellington. She was part of a group of Marlborough youth smokefree advocates who wrote a rap about the dangers of smoking, which they performed for associate health minister Tariana Turia last year.
She is also part of the Marlborough District Council working group discussing ways to educate and encourage Marlburians to make public places smoke free.
When she finishes at school Lamosa plans to do a business and administration course and to carry on with her advocacy.
She will attend the forum with council reserves and amenities officer Robert Hutchinson and Cancer Society health promoter Teresa Goza.
Her trip is being funded by the Cancer Society and the Nelson Marlborough District Health.
Lamosa was the perfect representative for the smokefree campaign, Teresa said.
"In terms of uptake of smoking the biggest take up is from teenage Maori and Pacific Island girls from low socio-economic back grounds. She's our target audience."
However, Teresa said Lamosa was far more than a figure head and despite her age she was a powerful smokefree advocate.
"When she speaks the whole room goes quiet. She has the ability to make adults listen and policymakers change their decisions."The forum would be a great opportunity for Lamosa and an example for other young people.
"It's about leadership. This is not just health professionals imposing policies, it's about growing our kids," Teresa said.
- The Marlborough Express