Papa don’t puff


UBC nursing professor John Oliffe helps run Dads In Gear, a program that helps fathers quit smoking. Photo: Martin Dee

As Father’s Day approaches, UBC nursing professor John Oliffe wants dads who smoke to consider tossing out the cigarettes.

Oliffe helps fathers quit smoking through Dads In Gear, a program and website that offers tips and support for men on quitting cigarettes and being a healthy father. He explains why it’s important for dads to quit smoking, and how having kids later in life is changing the experience of fatherhood.

How big of an issue is smoking and fathers?

In Canada, approximately six per cent more men smoke than women. Smoking in pregnancy and postpartum has always been positioned as a women’s health issue, but we know that if a man smokes, his partner is far more likely to smoke. Children in the house are also far more likely to grow up to be smokers.

When we spoke to moms about quitting smoking, it was very clear that it was really about their partnership, and it was definitely about the men as well. If we can intervene with dads, then we have this potential to benefit their partners and their kids as well.

People are having children later in life. How does this affect fatherhood?

The stages of adulthood are being pushed back because we’re at school longer. The point at which we’re thinking about starting a family is more in the mid to late 30s than in the early 20s. As you get into your third and fourth decade, you’re probably starting to hit mid career, so you’ve probably got a fair bit of demand at work. You may have established a routine, and you might be quite regimented as time goes on.

Kids, when they arrive, certainly disrupt some of that routine and some of that planning. Some dads may decide they don’t want to deal with that much pressure. I recently met up with a friend who had just resigned from a very big job to look after his kids at home. He just didn’t want to juggle the dual demands.

Older guys who smoke are probably also feeling the effects of cigarettes. Chances are, by the time they hit their late 30s they’ve been smoking for quite some time. By that point they’re starting to feel some elements of shortness of breath and some fatigue. So even playing with their kids, as older dads, might be something to drive a change in their life around reducing or quitting smoking.

Do you have any advice on celebrating Father’s Day?

Guys really like affirmation. They like to know what they’re doing well. Sometimes it’s as simple as a thank you and a connection with them, have someone else take the lead and do the work of organizing an activity. It might be as simple as getting out for a walk or breakfast in bed or those traditional kinds of things. It’s an affirmation and appreciation for what they bring to the family.

For information and resources on fatherhood and quitting smoking, visit:

For more resources on quitting smoking, visit


Jessica Werb
UBC Public Affairs
Tel: 604.827.2515