Someone who feels supported is more likely to quit smoking for good. That’s why friends, family members, and significant others can play a big part in helping a person become smokefree.
Here are some tips that can help you support the person in your life who is quitting smoking. The more you know, the more you can help.
Smoking cigarettes isn't a bad habit. It's a serious and complicated addiction. That makes quitting smoking one of the biggest challenges many smokers will ever face.
Deciding to quit doesn't mean thoughts of smoking go away at once. It takes time for cravings to fade, and it can take a person more than one try to successfully quit. Most people who quit don't do it on their own. They get a lot of help and support from friends, family, and significant others.
Learn more about why quitting is so hard.
The way you deal with smoking can have an effect on a person who is trying to quit. It helps to become aware of your relationship style. Your style affects their smoking, their quitting, their health, and yours. Ask yourself these questions:
Understanding your relationship style can help you understand what both of you may have to change to better deal with their smoking and quitting. For example, you may need to:
It can be hard to get someone to talk about quitting smoking. To get a conversation started, look for an opening. Respond positively when someone says:
Let them know you think it's great they're considering quitting and that you're ready to help. If you're an ex-smoker, you can draw from your own experience of quitting. Let them know how much better you feel now that you're smokefree. You might say:
If someone doesn’t give you an opening, create one. Ask them whether they’ve thought about quitting. Or you could try a different approach. You might say:
Asking open-ended questions can help you understand what a smoker who is quitting is going through. You might ask:
Quitting smoking is about them—not you. Listen to what they have to say. If you ask a question, be quiet and give them time to answer. Resist the urge to insert your own comments.
Lectures, nagging, and scolding won't help your friend or family member quit smoking. It might just put you on their bad side, and they may not come to you for help when they really need it.
Here are some things to avoid when you’re trying to help someone quit smoking:
Lend support to your friend or family member by helping them plan smokefree activities. If you're still smoking, avoid smoking around them, especially if you call an activity “smokefree.”
Here are a few activities you could suggest:
Some triggers and cravings are unavoidable. Help your friend or family member prepare by thinking of ways to distract themselves until the craving passes. Most cravings only last a few minutes, so making a short phone call or finding a task to keep their hands busy might be enough.
Here are some ideas:
Put together a smokefree quit kit with a few of these items for your friend or family member to help them be ready to deal with cravings in the moment.
Supporting someone who is trying to quit smoking can be frustrating and exhausting. Focus on staying upbeat. Don’t give up on them. Your support is important.
The withdrawal that can come from quitting smoking may make a person moody and irritable. Avoid:
The cravings a person might face can be hard to deal with. Don't let them lose confidence in quitting. Check in on them and let them know you support them. You might say:
Your friend or family member may slip at some point and smoke a cigarette. They'll probably feel guilty, so getting angry with them will not help. Instead, you could:
Here are some ways you could respond to a slip:
Recognize your friend or family member's smokefree successes and milestones. Staying smokefree for one day, one week, or one year are all reasons to celebrate. So are throwing out all of the ashtrays in the house, ditching any reminder of cigarettes, and passing on an after-dinner cigarette. Help your friend or family member celebrate by:
A compliment can go a long way to recognize the positive changes they’ve made:
Quitting smoking can create a lot of stress, which may cause someone to reach for a cigarette. If you notice they are stressed, help them break the cycle by finding healthier ways to de-stress. If you smoke, remember not to agree to have a cigarette together—that will set them back.
Consider suggesting one of these smokefree stress relievers:
The challenges of quitting smoking don't end when a person puts down their last cigarette. Cravings can pop up weeks, or even months, later. It's not uncommon for ex-smokers to start smoking again within the first three months of quitting.
Let your friend or family member know you're there for the long haul. Keep celebrating their smokefree anniversaries and offer distractions to help them deal with cravings. Your ongoing support could be all they need to make this quit attempt their last.