In “Progeny,” one student’s hope for a smoke-free future

The story of “Progeny” may be history, but the film’s message — the need for a world where cigars, cigarettes and e-cigarettes are forgotten relics — is rooted firmly in the future.

In “Progeny,” director Daniel Fordham, a senior Communication major, tells the story of a father, a son and the harmful legacy of tobacco products.

“I wanted …‘Progeny’ to show the emotional toll a lung cancer diagnosis can have on the person being diagnosed and the people they love,” Fordham said. “Even if you can’t change people’s habits in 30 seconds, maybe you can get them thinking about starting a dialogue with their family, their doctor or their friends.”

Produced during the fall 2017 semester, the film empowered Fordham to spread his message about the various ways tobacco use and electronic cigarettes can affect a person’s health.

“My dad first shared the story that inspired this story in my public service announcement,” Fordham said. “I’ve kept the lessons in it with me throughout my life. My dad watched the PSA and really appreciated the story it told. It recalled memories for him of his experience with his dad.”

In “Progeny,” a father receives a cancer diagnosis. His first phone call is to his son, who is also a smoker. In the PSA, the son removes a pack of cigarettes from his pocket and contemplates the harm they cause before tossing them in the trash.

“My dad would recount watching his father receive news on the phone from a family member about a terminal diagnosis caused by smoking,” Fordham said. “My grandfather then took the cigarettes out of his pocket, laid them on the coffee table and said, ‘I’m done.’ My grandfather struggled with that decision but stayed determined to quit for good.”

Research shows smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer, prompting some smokers to put down the cigarette and pick up an e-cigarette.

“I was on a study abroad trip to China in May and a couple of students were using Juuls [e-cigarettes],” Fordham said. “They told me they thought using these e-cigarettes was a safe alternative, but I asked them if they knew how the chemicals would impact their body. So we talked about it.”

In a recent study published by the National Cancer Institute, researchers found adolescents who regularly used pod-style e-cigarettes, such as the brand Juul, had higher levels of nicotine in their bodies than have previously been found in adolescents who regularly smoked conventional cigarettes. According to the Truth Initiative, a youth oriented no tobacco/e-cigarette advocacy organization, 63 percent of Juul users don’t know that the product always contains nicotine, a toxic and addictive substance.

Sixty-six percent of teens think their e-cigarettes contain just flavoring and more than 13 percent don’t know what is in them, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. E-cigarette aerosol contains at least 10 chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm according to Tobacco Free California.

“I really wanted to capture the emotional response to learning a family member was diagnosed with cancer,” Fordham said. “Cancer doesn’t just affect the person diagnosed. It affects their family, their friends and their community.”

Fordham will graduate in May 2019, and while his time at Augusta University will eventually end, he said he hopes to continue to sharing his film and its message with people who smoke.

Watch “Progeny” and other student PSAs at the Georgia Cancer Center’s PSA Video Competition Awards page.

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Written by
Chris Curry

Chris Curry is the Communications Coordinator for the Georgia Cancer Center at Augusta University. Contact him to schedule an interview on this topic or with one of our experts at 706-799-8841 or

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Avatar photo Written by Chris Curry

Jagwire is your source for news and stories from Augusta University. Daily updates highlight the many ways students, faculty, staff, researchers and clinicians "bring their A games" in classrooms and clinics on four campuses in Augusta and locations across the state of Georgia.

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