Steve Panetta used to smoke cigarettes in the house when his children were infants.
That was before he learned about secondhand smoke about 18 years ago. Since then, he banned smoking in his house and finally quit for good about six years ago with the help of a New York state cessation class.
"On the first day, they ask you to write down as many reasons as you can think of to quit smoking," said Panetta, a 52-year-old butcher from Troy. "My children were the second reason. The first was my father died of lung cancer at 50."
Smokers living with kids are 76 percent more likely to try to quit, according to a survey by the New York state Department of Health. The survey was released this month to kick off the "Great American Smokeout," a national effort to promote quitting. Experts say the health risks to others can be a greater incentive for smokers to quit than the dangers it poses to themselves.
"People who won't quit smoking for themselves are generally more likely to quit smoking for their children," said Dr. Richard Daines, the commissioner of the New York state Department of Health.
Panetta said he wants to continue avoiding cigarettes and to be a good influence for his two daughters.
"They played a role in the decision, because as soon as I got education on secondhand smoke ... that was enough," Panetta said.
The survey found that among New York's approximately 2.7 million smokers, about 1 million live with children in the household.
Parents who smoke around their kids may contribute to health problems, like respiratory infections, ear infections, bronchitis, and pneumonia, Daines said.
"It's just kind of natural for parents to be concerned about their child's health," he said. "Parents taking their kids to the doctor for ear infections and asthma probably can't help but wonder if their smoking is contributing to that."
The agency found that 76 percent of smokers with children tried to quit smoking because of the effect of smoke on others. The study also found that 42 percent of smokers with children don't allow smoking in their home, compared with 26 percent of smokers without children.
The study also found that 60 percent of people living with children are more likely to want to quit smoking "a lot."
"I definitely think this is a cultural shift," said Russ Sciandra, the director of the Center for a Tobacco Free New York. "I think the great landmark was the state clean air law, but even that, in a way, was a mark of a cultural shift. People are increasingly aware that cigarette smoke harms the people around you. And that - especially when it's your children - just gives you one more motivation to quit."
But it doesn't make it any easier for parents like Panetta to give up cigarettes.
"Even thought my father died of cancer, and even knowing the danger of secondhand smoke, it was still very hard to put them down," Panetta said.
"If you're going to smoke, you want to kill yourself, fine. Try not to kill your children," he said.
New Yorkers who want to quit smoking can call the state smokers' quit line at 1-866-NY-QUITS or 1-866-697-8487 for free coaching and quit plans.
Free nicotine patches, gum and lozenges are also available to eligible smokers by visiting the quit line Web site at www.nysmokefree.com.