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Celebrate Dads Who Live Smoke-Free Lives

Photo: Father with daughter on shouldersFathers play a significant role in influencing their children. Dads are encouraged to model a healthy way of living for their children by not smoking. Together, family and friends can support dads who are trying to quit.

Father's Day is an occasion to celebrate the contribution that fathers and father figures make to children's lives. Fathers help children navigate through society and influence general habits and their overall way of living. Research on the roles that fathers play in families points to the significant and unique ways they influence and affect the lives of their children. Roles such as "provider" and "hero" can change based on the decisions that a father makes in his own life. These decisions can have a profound effect—changing the path a child takes in life as well as their perceptions of their father because they view him as a role model.

This Father's Day, if you smoke, CDC encourages you to model a healthy way of living for your children by quitting smoking for good. You can do it! Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) for free support and advice from experienced counselors, a personalized quit plan, self-help materials, the latest information about cessation medications, and more.

For those fathers who have already resolved to quit smoking, those who have quit for good, and those who have never started—congratulations!

Keep Dads Healthy for Their Families

Photo: Father and son playing basketballTobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. In 2010, nearly one in five U.S. adults (45.3 million) were current smokers. Cigarette smoking accounts for an estimated 443,000 deaths each year in the United States, or nearly one of every five deaths. And for every smoking-related death, another 20 people suffer with a smoking-related disease. Smoking harms nearly every organ of the body and causes many diseases, such as coronary heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer, to name a few. More men (nearly 22%) than women (about 17%) smoke. Smoking causes an estimated 90% of all lung cancer deaths in men. Men who smoke increase their risk of dying from bronchitis by nearly 10 times; from emphysema, by nearly 10 times; and from lung cancer, by more than 22 times. And smoking triples middle-aged men's risk of dying from heart disease.

CDC's Tips Campaign Highlights the Real-Life Health Consequences of Smoking

CDC's national tobacco education campaign, Tips From Former Smokers, features a variety of real people, many of whom started smoking in their teens and are suffering from smoking-related illnesses. By showing people whose lives have been affected by the damage caused by smoking, CDC hopes to encourage smokers to quit and young people not to start and to strongly discourage smoking around children.

Bill's Story

Photo: Bill with wife and sonBill is a father of four children and was diagnosed with diabetes when he was an infant. He is angry with himself that he ever accepted that first cigarette at age 15 from a teenage friend and that he waited so long to quit smoking.

Bill says he learned the hard way that smoking makes diabetes harder to control. "Doctors always told me to quit smoking. I didn't listen." At 37, Bill had kidney failure. He now needs dialysis treatments 12 hours a week to filter his blood the way his kidneys used to—before they stopped functioning properly. Smoking cigarettes contributed to this and other problems he now has to manage.

"Then they took my leg," he says. In 2011, at the age of 39, he had his leg amputated due to poor circulation—made worse from smoking. "That's the scariest thing—to wake up after surgery, to reach down to feel for your leg, and there's nothing there." That was the day Bill quit smoking.

Bill says his life has changed dramatically. Although he is still very active, he says it's difficult to climb stairs, play sports, and do some activities with his wife and children.

Bill urges young people to never start smoking. He also regrets the example he set for his children. "It's embarrassing when your 5-year-old asks you why you don't quit smoking. Yes, my children saw me smoke. I'm glad they saw me quit!"

Michael's Story

Photo: Michael with grandsonMichael is a father and grandfather who began smoking at age 9 when his youngest sister offered him a cigarette. Years later, Michael, a U.S. Army veteran, an Alaska Native, and member of the Tlingit tribe, would develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD—a condition caused by smoking that makes it harder and harder to breathe and can cause death. It wasn't until he nearly suffocated that he decided to quit smoking for good.

"Smoking was something I did to fit in," he says, remembering why he started smoking. "At first it was unpleasant, but the more I smoked, the more I became addicted to cigarettes." Even though Michael lost his father, sister, and many other people in his community to smoking-related diseases, he continued to smoke.

The day Michael made the decision to quit smoking for good was a day he won't forget. He was 52 years old and woke up struggling to breathe. "I was suffocating to death. Every cell in my body was screaming for oxygen!" He remembers riding in the ambulance, wondering if he was going to die. He never smoked another cigarette. "Losing your breath is losing your life force."

Today, Michael continues to fight for his life. To help improve his breathing, he had lung volume reduction surgery. Diseased parts of his lungs were removed so healthier lung tissue could work better. After he quit smoking, his condition improved slightly, but his doctor says Michael needs a lung transplant. In his weakened state, Michael doesn't know if he would survive the surgery.

Michael enjoys the company of his daughter and two grandchildren but struggles with the thought of having to say good-bye. "I can't bear the thought of not watching them grow up," he says. "I don't know how to tell them. I'm running out of time." He wishes he had more energy to play with them. "I used to play volleyball and hike in the mountains, but I don't do that anymore," he says. "I avoid anything that involves running and carrying things. I stay away from smoke and exhaust. Now, it's all about friends, good memories, and living a little bit longer."

Nathan's Story

Photo: Nathan with daughter and grandsonNathan, a Native American and member of the Oglala Sioux tribe with five children and three grandchildren, has permanent lung damage. He has never smoked cigarettes, but for 11 years he worked at a casino that allowed smoking. After breathing people's cigarette smoke daily, Nathan began to have frequent asthma attacks triggered by the secondhand smoke. "You could see the smoke hovering inside the casino," he recalls.

As he worked at the casino, Nathan noticed more changes to his health. Along with asthma attacks, he started having frequent problems with eye irritation, headaches, allergies, ear and sinus infections, and bronchitis. Over the years, the symptoms got worse. "A common cold escalated into pneumonia, sending me to the emergency room," he says. "During one of the visits, a doctor was looking at x-rays of my lungs and commented that I had the lungs of a heavy smoker. I told him, 'I never smoked a day in my life!'"

In 2009, doctors determined that Nathan's airways were seriously damaged by repeated infections from exposure to secondhand smoke, which led to scarring and widening of his airways called bronchiectasis. Lung damage from bronchiectasis is permanent. His lung problems were so serious that Nathan finally had to leave his job to avoid the smoke. Now, just walking a short distance causes him to be out of breath, and he has to be on oxygen daily.

Nathan has been married for 34 years and is very involved with his children and grandchildren. His biggest fear is being a burden to his family. Nathan prided himself on being a very active person. He participated in tribal dance competitions and loved to referee at high school basketball games, which he did for 14 years. "I can't do any of those things anymore," he says.

Nathan decided it was important to share his story. He wants to make everyone aware of the dangers of smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke. "Some people tell me they smoke, and I ask them if they have grandchildren. ‘If you smoke, you may be taking that smoke home to the grandchildren and their small lungs,’ I tell them. I never smoked; look what happened to me. I want to make people aware of the damage that exposure to secondhand smoke can do to you."

Fathers: Be Smoke-Free Role Models

  • Do not start smoking.
  • Don't allow others to smoke in your home, in vehicles, or around your children.
  • Teach your children about the health risks of smoking and secondhand smoke.
  • If you are a dad who smokes, quit now. It is the best thing you can do for your family. Children of parents who smoke are twice as likely to become smokers.

More Information

For more information on the health consequences of smoking and exposure to tobacco smoke, as well as resources on how to quit, consult the following:

Just Released!

If there's a dad in your life who could benefit from quitting smoking, check out CDC's new Be Smoke-Free—You Matter to Me! Facebook app. You can use it to remind him of all the activities and major life events he might miss out on if he continues to smoke—and more importantly, all the things he can look forward to if he quits. You can send a heartfelt message to show him how much you care and to encourage and motivate him to try to quit.