News & Stories

Philly.com: Father leaves warning on smoking

Editor’s Note: This editorial originally ran in the Philadelphia Inquirer and on Philly.com, on Sunday, June 16, 2013.

Father leaves warning on smoking

Christopher Fifis, Nick Fifis, and John Fifis are the owners of Ponzio’s Diner & Bakery Bar in Cherry Hill.

Growing up as sons of a first-generation Greek immigrant, we learned early about the value of hard work and family.

As the owner of Ponzio’s Diner in Cherry Hill, our dad spent almost every day for more than two decades greeting guests and entertaining them with his dry wit and sense of humor.

We had dinner at the diner almost every night because our dad was always working, and when we were old enough, he put us to work there, too.

On the rare occasion that our dad did take time off for a family vacation, we all piled into the car to head to Wildwood for a week, with Greek music turned up as loud as we could stand.

We stayed at the Olympic Hotel and ate at the Athens restaurant. Our dad loved being Greek as much as he loved his days and nights at the diner.

We miss our dad. A lifelong smoker, he died of lung cancer in 2007.

Two weeks before he passed away, he called us all together for what was to become a final heart-to-heart talk.

He had one more job for us: to advocate for a cure for lung cancer and work to raise awareness about the dangers of smoking. He did not want other families to have to go through the pain that we went through.

To honor his dying wish, we established the Jim Fifis Lung Cancer Research Fund at Cooper Cancer Institute.

Now in its third year, the fund raises money to help ensure patients have access to the most advanced cancer care available.

New chemotherapy regimens, targeted drug therapies, minimally invasive surgical techniques, and advanced radiation tools are all helping to enhance lung cancer treatment and save lives.

The fund also helps us encourage people to reduce their risk for lung cancer by quitting smoking or, better yet, never starting. This begins with our children.

Each day in the United States, more than 3,800 young people under age 18 smoke their first cigarette, and more than 1,000 children become daily cigarette smokers, according to a 2012 U.S. surgeon general’s report. The report notes that the vast majority of Americans who begin daily smoking during adolescence are addicted to nicotine by young adulthood.

Our father started smoking when he was a kid, and so did our grandfather, whom we never knew because he too died of lung cancer. We are determined to break the cycle.

We warn our children and their friends about the dangers of smoking and implore them to stay away from cigarettes.

This Father’s Day, we will share stories with our children about their “Papou” so we keep his memory alive – and we will turn up the Greek music as loud as we can.