Frank Busch quit smoking for his kids.

“Once you have children it becomes very important to you that you want to live long enough …to see them achieve certain life goals,” said Busch. “I started wondering every time you have a cigarette you’re taking a certain amount of time off of your life. And to me it started feeling like I was robbing my children of that time.”

Frank is an Indigenous dad living in West Kelowna, British Columbia. He knows how tough it can be to quit. Beyond the familiar challenges of quitting, like cravings, stress, and withdrawal, he says there are also social challenges.

“You do tend to feel like, when you quit that everybody else smokes and you’re kind of an outsider,” said Busch. “You do tend to lose your social circle.”

Nearly 40 per cent of Indigenous men in Canada are smokers. This means that friends and family members are more likely to be smokers, which can make it more difficult to quit.

Website offers resources aimed for men

Dads in Gear (DIG) is the first stop smoking program in the world to support fathers.

Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease, cancer and other chronic diseases, and children are three times more likely to smoke if a parent smokes. Men’s cessation can significantly improve their own health and the health of their partners, as well as create smoke free homes for children.

Gayl Sarbit, a program lead for DIG, said that this program fills a gap in available resources tailored for men, and is greatly needed given that men smoke in greater numbers than women.

“In a way that has never been done before, DIG integrates smoking cessation, fathering and healthy living — physical activity and healthy eating — to directly message dads about the connectedness of their smoking practices and health to the well-being of their family,” said Sarbit.

The DIG program offers online resources to dads who want to quit smoking. It also provides group sessions that encourage men to provide peer support.

Targeted resource for Indigenous Dads

Sarbit and the DIG team also recently launched a new resource called Dads in Gear Indigenous.

The program was developed in consultation with Elders, Indigenous men and community health professionals who work with Indigenous families. The goal for Dads in Gear Indigenous is to deliver an adaptation that reflects the values, traditions and the preferences of Indigenous dads.

“Few gender-specific and culturally appropriate stop smoking programs have been developed for Indigenous men,” said Sarbit.

Busch was one of the first dads to join the DIG program and says the community support is one of the most important elements to the program.

“My experience with being a part of the Dads in Gear program…was a bit of an opportunity to have a group of guys who are all going through the same thing,” said Busch.

“Just being able to share your experiences with other dads and be able to hear their stories as well, it really just adds like a real grounding for you that you’re able to know that you’re not alone.”