A new program to assist fathers of pre-school children to quit smoking has been tested in Canada and found to produce very high rates of abstinence compared to other programs assessed in the research literature. 32% of program participants were abstinent at the end of the 8-week program, rising to 35% three months later.
Dads in Gear is a smoking cessation program that targets fathers of young children, run by trained male facilitators. In this evaluation, 5 community organisations delivered the program with 21 fathers completing the program. Self-reported measures of positive engagement in fathering, and engagement in physical activity, also both increased during the program.
The evaluation identified a number of strengths of the program.
- A positive strengths-based approach to working with men, appealing to aspects of masculine identities. New fathers have an enhanced interest being providers and protectors and the program built on this motivation e.g. stopping smoking for the health of their children and being role models for them.
- Delivery by trusted local organisations with a track record of delivering services to men.
- Popularity with participants. 91% of participants agreed or strongly agreed that the program helped with smoking cessation, and similarly physical activity. In relation to support for engaged fathering, the figure was 75%.
- The facilitators were fathers. This enabled a supportive group dynamic to emerge around a common identity.
- Peer support for quitting emerged from within the groups.
One key factor underlying the success of the program was found to be the availability of experienced male group facilitators. They had the skills to make adjustments to the program to meet the needs of the group, for example, when Indigenous fathers participated. The evaluators recommend more adaptations for Indigenous fathers.
Sadly, despite the success, the lack of financial resources limited the ability organisations to continue to offer the program after the pilot.
The team behind Dads in Gear has produced a motivational booklet for new fathers who smoke, The Right Time…The Right Reasons…
Bottorff JL et al (2018), Evaluating the feasibility of a gender-sensitized smoking cessation program for fathers, Psychology of Men & Masculinity
Photo: Scott Sherrill-Mix. Creative Commons.