KELOWNA, B.C. — A new UBC study suggests that stereotypes of masculinity can influence the habits of new fathers who continue to smoke, despite knowing the risks associated with first- and second-hand smoke.
“The findings revealed the uncomfortable dilemma new dads experience in relation to smoking and their role as providers and protectors for their families, and highlight the importance of understanding the contexts in which men continue to smoke,” says John Oliffe, associate professor in the School of Nursing at UBC’s Vancouver campus.
The study, “Fathers: Locating Smoking and Masculinity in the Postpartum,” examined the relationship between being a new dad who smokes and the places fathers continue to light up.
“Men’s health practices have been closely linked to their male identities, especially tobacco use,” says Joan Bottorff, director for the Institute for Healthy Living and Chronic Disease Prevention at UBC’s Okanagan campus in Kelowna. “For instance, in the past, the image of the Marlboro Man appealed to men because it represented freedom, confidence, independence and strength.”
Twenty new fathers from B.C.’s Lower Mainland participated in the study through interviews and contributed a total of 308 photographs to illustrate smoking through their own eyes.
There were three dominant places where fathers found they could comfortably smoke: on the job, at home and in private spaces.
Many of the men’s photographs showed male-oriented workplaces, such as the construction and trades industries. Smoking on the job was seen as a strategy to reduce stress, kill time and reward success. As well, smoking was often thought to be less of a risk to some men than the everyday dangers in their jobs.
There were also examples where workplace smoking was promoted as a normal and acceptable way to bond with male co-workers, and for the boss to control aggression and to provide a calm work environment.
The second place many new fathers found refuge to smoke was at home, although mostly in places such as the garage or patio. Many participants believed they were practicing responsible smoking by physically separating themselves from their families to smoke on their balconies, porches and decks.
“Acknowledging that the inside of the family home was a non-smoking area — borders marking the inside and the outside — forced many men to chose between smoking and direct fathering, which in turn, led some men to choose between their need to smoke and their desire to be with their child,” says Oliffe.
Finally, the study showed a significant number of fathers who smoked alone. Smoking in solitude provided a means to manage the competing identities of father and smoker. In other words, smoking alone was justified as an individual choice that could be taken up without harming others. Typically the best opportunities for solitary smoking are travelling back and forth from work in their car.
“The research showed that most men are interested in reducing and stopping smoking as well as being ‘good’ fathers,” says Oliffe.
A national survey reports 29 per cent of Canadian men continue to smoke during their child-rearing years, 15 per cent of households have at least one person who smokes inside the house every day, and almost 10 per cent of children under the age of 12 are regularly exposed to second-hand smoke.
“The challenge for us is to find effective ways to assist expectant and new fathers to reduce or quit smoking,” says Bottorff. “We have conducted consultations with fathers, their partners, and health care providers to seek their advice.”
finding ways that men can help each other to stop smoking
- offering assistance or resources at times when men are thinking about quitting
- supporting men’s engagement in fathering
- supporting men’s independence in decisions about how they will approach quitting
“We are currently developing new resources and programs based on this information to support expectant and new fathers who want to quit,” says Bottorff.
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