After being a social smoker for 10 years, smoking two or three cigarettes in social situations a few times a week,1 Ethan was surprised to learn that his smoking was possibly preventing his second child from being conceived.2
"We went to our GP to talk about getting pregnant", says Ethan. "The GP referred us to a fertility specialist. They showed me some statistics about smoking and how much it reduces fertility and they recommended that I quit smoking and reduce my alcohol intake".3
Ethan used a step-wise approach to cutting down and then quitting smoking, 4 and used the same approach to drink less alcohol as well.
Today, he is the proud father of two children and equally happy that he is able to be a positive role-model for his children.
Ethan remembers first smoking with a group of work friends when he was about 23 years old. From that time on, smoking was always a social activity for him: "It was something I used as a relationship-building tool and I always tried not to smoke by myself at home".
"Occasionally, there were times at work when I was under the pressure of deadlines when I would smoke more. I felt like it helped me to stay awake and alert at those times."
In those early days of smoking, Ethan didn't see his social smoking as a major problem that was affecting his health. However, his parents were keen for him to give up smoking and Ethan could see that quitting would have financial benefits. Ethan had tried to quit smoking a few times using various methods. He eventually had a successful quit attempt which allowed him to save enough money for a deposit towards a new home.
But over the years, Ethan drifted back to smoking – until he had a more powerful reason to quit – his family!
The facts on smoking and fertility
When Ethan and his wife saw the fertility specialist, they learned that smoking reduces both sperm quality and quantity.5 But there was good news too. Since sperm takes three months to develop, the months leading up to conception would provide Ethan with the ideal window to quit smoking.6 The specialist suggested that cutting down on alcohol could be helpful too.
A methodical approach
As an accountant, Ethan likes to approach life's challenges in a methodical way, and so he left the appointment armed with his new homework: to quit smoking by cutting down his cigarettes to zero using a stepwise approach4 and to reduce his alcohol consumption.
"I felt that my smoking was a social addiction and quitting was all about my own willingness and mindset. I was ready to give up smoking.
"I started by reducing the number of cigarettes I was smoking on each occasion, then I reduced the number of occasions where I smoked. I did this over about six months.
"When I hadn't had a smoke for about one month, I knew that I really didn't have an addiction any more. This was a symbol, that if I could live without cigarettes for a month, then I could maintain that for much longer."
Previously, Ethan would have a couple of alcoholic drinks three or four times a week. He gradually cut this down and now strictly limits himself to just two drinks a week.
Making simple substitutions for a cigarette, a beer or a glass of wine was helpful for Ethan: "Instead of a cigarette, I'd have a spicy snack – like chilli peanuts – and found that really helped. Instead of alcohol, I'd drink fresh fruit juice. My wife was a good support. When she went grocery shopping, she would buy me extra snacks to help."
Reaping the benefits
After being smoke-free for several months, Ethan and his wife fell pregnant with their second child, who is now three months old. "My home is smoke-free and my family won't be exposed to secondhand smoke," says Ethan.
There have been other benefits too. "I'm not as smelly, according to my wife!
"My teeth had been damaged from smoking and now they are getting whiter again7 – my dentist has told me they are slowly beginning to recover."
"By reducing the [amount of] alcohol I drink, I have also lost 5kg.8 I've taken up more exercise at night. Before bed, I do 100 sit-ups and push-ups and have become more health conscious.
"For working class people like me, the financial benefits are worth looking at. Even though it might seem small to start with, over the long-term, the savings can make a real difference."
"This isn't just for me"
Ultimately, it's Ethan's commitment to his wife and children that has kept him smoke-free: "Especially if your partner is a non-smoker, I see quitting smoking as a great way of restoring your relationship – by proving to your partner that you are able to do something for their benefit, not just for you. It also shows that you have a strong sense of family responsibility.
"It's not just about ourselves. We don't live by ourselves, so we have to think about others too. We are a family now."
Ethan is enjoying life with his young family and is committed to remaining a non-smoker. "I would absolutely hate it if my daughter grew up to be a smoker. I don’t want to set myself up as a bad example."