How can I help someone I know quit smoking?

You probably know you can’t force a loved one to quit smoking. The smoker has to be the one to decide to quit. But once the decision is made, you may wonder how to best offer support so he or she can be most successful. After all, you have much to gain when your loved one quits smoking - your loved one get healthier and you are no longer exposed to second-hand smoke.
Here are some tips that may be helpful to your loved one.
  • Keep the lines of communication open and when in doubt, ask what you can do to be supportive.
  • Don’t be hurt if the quitter pushes you away and doesn’t seem to want your support at times. Nicotine withdrawal can cause irritability and at times make a loved one say or do things he or she doesn’t really mean. Just continue to make yourself available if your support is needed.
  • Don’t bring up the topic of smoking or cigarettes unless the quitter does first. He or she is trying hard to ignore the cravings.
  • Help the quitter avoid triggers that will make him or her want to smoke, such as avoiding restaurants or bars, or certain friends or social situations for a while.
  • Help the quitter by making sure others know not to smoke around the quitter (in the home or car at least), or leave cigarettes lying around.
  • Try to act as normal as possible around the quitter, yet at the same time, try to suggest fun activities that you can do together as a means of distraction.
  • Keep telling the quitter you love and support him or her, that it will get better, and that quitting is worth it!
  • Do not make the quitter feel guilty if he or she relapses and has a cigarette. Congratulate your loved one for the time he or she was able to not smoke. Remind the quitter that it usually takes many people many attempts to successfully quit. And continue to encourage your loved one to try, try again.

It's understandable to be concerned about someone you know who currently smokes. It's important to find out if this person wants to quit smoking. Most smokers say they want to quit. If they don't want to quit, try to find out why.

Here are some things you can do to help:

Express things in terms of your own concern about the smoker's health Acknowledge that the smoker may get something out of smoking and may find it difficult to quit Be encouraging and express your faith that the smoker can quit for good Suggest a specific action, such as calling a smoking quitline, for help in quitting smoking Ask the smoker for ways you can provide support

Here are two things you should not do:

Don't send quit smoking materials to smokers unless they ask for them Don't criticize, nag, or remind the smoker about past failures

This answer is based on source information from National Cancer Institute.
Joanne M. Foody, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
If someone you know is trying to quit smoking, there's a lot you can do to help. Simply being supportive and available to lend an ear is a big part of the process. Propose activities to keep the person active-and away from the temptation to light up.

It's important to remember that quitting is tough; if your loved one slips up along the way, don't criticize his or her efforts. When friends seem to be struggling, continue to encourage them and let them know how much you admire them for their efforts. Recognize and congratulate small milestones, and realize that your loved one may be more cranky than usual. Sometimes the best thing you can be is a sounding board, or even an emotional punching bag, for whenever a bad craving strikes. Use the tips below to help make these transitions easier.

Helping someone decide to quit
You can gently encourage someone who smokes to quit. Think of your comments about smoking as only one event that moves that person toward quitting.

Start any discussion of quitting in a gentle way.

Let the person know why you want him or her to quit. Give the person reasons that are as important to him or her as they are to you. (Try "I want you to be with us for a long time" rather than "I'm tired of cleaning your dirty ashtrays.")

One good way to begin is to mention a new treatment option you have heard or read about.

Make it short (less than 5 minutes).

Ask whether there is a way that you can help him or her quit.

Repeat your attempt every 6 to 12 months.

Helping someone who is quitting
Family and friends are a valuable source of support and motivation for a person who is trying to quit smoking. People who have already quit are an even greater source of comfort and can offer tips for success. If a person who smokes asks for your support while trying to quit, you can:

Help distract him or her. Join in the activities he or she does to decrease the craving to smoke, such as lunchtime walks or hobbies.

Ignore grouchy moods. Try your best to tolerate any bad moods. They won't last forever.

Provide a reward when he or she meets a goal or milestone without using tobacco.

Ask the person what he or she needs from you.

If you smoke, don't smoke around the person who is trying to quit. Don't offer a cigarette, even as a joke. Don't leave your cigarettes where they will tempt the person to take one.

If you have quit smoking, talk often to the person about positive changes in your health and sense of well-being. Talk about the times when you found it most difficult not to smoke and what you did to get through those situations.
Celeste Robb-Nicholson
Internal Medicine
If you're a nonsmoker, become a sensitive but persistent nag. Let the smokers in your circle of friends and family know that you would like them to quit, and encourage them in their efforts. Be patient. Only 4% to 7% of smokers are able to quit on any attempt without aids like nicotine replacement products or medical help, and only one-quarter to one-third who use any quit-smoking medicine stay tobacco-free for more than six months. It usually takes many attempts before a person is successful at quitting.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.