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Celebrate a Tobacco-free Father’s Day in 2013

ANCHORAGE, ALASKA—Father’s Day is a time to celebrate dads and remember the influential role they play in the choices their children make regarding tobacco use. Tobacco use among Alaska men remains a serious problem; according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, more than 63,700 Alaska men currently smoke. Each year 80 dads die in Alaska due to tobacco-related illnesses, leaving their children fatherless.

Michael Patterson is an Alaska father and grandfather, a U.S. Army veteran, an Alaska Native and a member of the Tlingit tribe. Michael began smoking when he was nine years old. Forty-three years later, he has COPD, a progressive lung disease that makes it harder and harder to breathe. Michael quit smoking for his health and family so he could live longer, though his doctors estimate that he only has five years to live.

Michael struggles with the thought of saying good-bye to his daughter and grandchildren. He wishes he had the energy to play with them. “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.”

Dads who use tobacco can celebrate Father’s Day 2013 by modeling a healthy lifestyle for their children and quitting tobacco, and all dads, whether they use tobacco or don’t, can celebrate Father’s Day by taking steps to protect their kids from secondhand smoke and from becoming tobacco users themselves.

Educate your child about the dangers of cigarette smoking.

•          Do not start smoking.

•          Talk about addiction and how hard it is to quit.

•          Emphasize the health effects of tobacco use.

•          Talk to your kids about how tobacco companies target them by trying to make tobacco use seem cool so they can addict them as customers for life.

•          Maintain a totally tobacco-free home and car (even if you smoke).

•          Make sure your kids’ schools have strong and well-enforced tobacco-free policies for kids and staff.

•          Support federal, state and local tobacco-prevention efforts like higher tobacco taxes, funding for tobacco prevention programs and smokefree laws.

If you use tobacco, quit. If you can’t quit, keep trying. Families should support their dads in maintaining a tobacco-free lifestyle. Children from families who smoke are twice as likely to become smokers themselves, but parents who smoke can beat those odds by trying to quit and talking to their kids about the addictiveness of smoking, why they want to quit and how important it is to never start.

Free help is available for Alaska adults by calling Alaska’s Tobacco Quit Line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visiting Alaskaquitline.com. Alaska’s Tobacco Quit Line offers free coaching, nicotine replacement therapies and/or cessation coaching.

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