BY MARK CURNUTTE
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Cassie Everson runs to her dad, Dave, whenever she sees him with a lighted cigarette and says, "Put that down and pick me up."
Smoker Dave Everson is trying to quit with help from his wife, Cathy, and kids Cassie, 6, and David, 10.
(Craig Ruttle photo)
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At 6, she often speaks for her mother. Dad's not going to get mad at her.
While everyone knows it's tough for smokers to quit, it can be just as difficult for loved ones whose pleas to quit are ignored or met with backlash.
Today, the day of the Great American Smokeout, Dave Everson will try to stop smoking for the 10th time since he started 21 years ago. But it's the first time the Anderson Township man has enlisted his family's help.
"They're going to have to be patient with me," says Mr. Everson, 38, who smokes up to a pack a day. "I'm going to be grumpy."
In Ohio, which has the nation's highest percentage of male smokers, many non-smoking wives and children are trying to get their husbands and fathers to quit. They walk a fine psychological line.
Just ask Cathy Everson, Dave's wife of 16 years.
"I've not said anything to him about it in five years," says Mrs. Everson, 38. "If I would get upset, he would get mad at me because he knew I was right. If I would say something, he would say, 'Yeah, and I could go out and get hit by a truck, too.'
"So I just quit saying things. There's nothing I can really do to help him. He has to do it himself."
An admitted spendthrift, she has made her husband a standing offer: Spend whatever it takes you to quit.
Don't mistake her silence for indifference.
"It scares me half to death to think that he could get lung disease or cancer," Mrs. Everson says. "Anything could happen, but the idea that something he's doing to himself could cause it is hard for me."
She lets her children do her bidding.
Son David, 10, tells Dad what he learns about smoking in Cub Scouts at Summit Elementary. "It causes lung disease," the boy says. "I personally don't like the smell."
Cassie has hidden whole packs of cigarettes from her father. She has threatened to use a water gun on him.
Only once, Mrs. Everson says, have her children gone too far. That was four or five years ago, when, in keeping with the message of a televised public service announcement, David wanted to call his father "butthead" when he lit up a cigarette.
Mr. Everson doesn't smoke in the house. He knows that living with a smoker increases a woman's risk of lung cancer as much as 30 percent.
He knows secondhand smoke results in lung cancer deaths for non-smokers. As many as 3,000 a year, a Mayo Clinic study says.
He won't smoke in the car if the kids are riding with him.
At home, Mr. Everson smokes in the garage. He is blunt with his children about the negative consequences of using tobacco. It's the classic parenting situation of "Do as I say, not as I do."
"They know about the yellow teeth, the bad breath, the burns on clothes, the burns on car seats, the expense of purchasing cigarettes," he says.
"If I hid it from them, they won't see that it's bad. Their future is a lot more important to me than my pride."
His approach with his children is similar to the one his mother used, albeit too late.
She found him sneaking a cigarette in the basement of the family's Hillsboro home when he was 17 and a student at Hillsboro High School. He knew she wouldn't want him to smoke, even though she was a smoker.
"They had gone to bed," Mr. Everson says. "Mom came down. I had the ashtray beside me. She asked me if I was smoking. I said I was. She started to cry and said, 'Please don't start that.' "
"I had been smoking for a few months. At that age, you do what you're going to do. You think you're invincible. Then, at 30, you realize you're not."
The whole family smoked. Mr. Everson's father stopped when Dave was 9. But his mother still smokes, as do Dave's three sisters. When his wife and children visit Dave's relatives who smoke, Cathy and the kids come away with watery eyes, runny noses and congested heads and chests.
Shortly after he and Cathy were married, Mr. Everson quit smoking for six months. It's the longest he's gone without cigarettes since he was 17.
He has tried to quit nine times - cold turkey each time. According to a survey by the Hazelden Foundation, former smokers tried an average of 10.8 times over an average of 18.6 years to quit before succeeding. Two-thirds of current smokers have made serious attempts to quit at least once.
This time, Mr. Everson is willing to use other methods. The skin patch or nicotine gum are options. They are also among the most popular ways to quit for smokers.
Non-smokers, he says, will never understand the torment. Stress brings on cravings. So does habit. "If you're a coffee drinker and have a cup or two every morning, try going without that," he says.
He recalls a specific time he tried to stop. With one cigarette left in his last pack, he was sure he would be able to stop.
"By that evening, I had bought a pack of cigarettes," he says. "It's amazing how confident I can be and then a few hours later be back at it again."
He's determined to make this time the time he succeeds.
"The Smokeout is something I haven't tried before," he says. "I'm hoping that come next November, I can say I've made it a year."
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