How to help someone trying to quit smoking
If someone feels like they have help and support, they are more likely to stop smoking for good. Here are some things you can do to help someone quit smoking. If you know more, you can help more.
It’s not easy to stop smoking
It’s not just a bad habit to smoke cigarettes, it’s a serious and extremely difficult addiction to break. Because of this, quitting smoking is one of the hardest things a lot of smokers will ever have to do.
Even after someone decides to stop smoking, they may still think about it and struggle. It takes time for cravings to go away, and sometimes it takes more than one try to stop. Most people who give up don’t do it by themselves. Friends, family, and significant others help and support them a lot.
How to help someone trying to quit smoking
Below, we unpack various ways to help someone quit smoking. Each strategy and technique will depend on your close one’s attitude towards smoking and where they are on their individual journey.
Determine your style of relationship
When it comes to helping someone quit smoking, you have to take into consideration the relationship you have with them and your attitude towards smoking.
A person who is trying to stop smoking can be affected by how you deal with smoking. It helps to know how you deal with other people. Your style affects whether or not they smoke, whether or not they quit, their health, and yours. Ask yourself these questions:
- Does it bother you that they smoke near you?
- Do you have fights over smoking?
- Do you avoid talking about smoking?
- Has a health problem made you think differently about smoking?
Getting to know your relationship style can help you both figure out what you may need to change to deal with their smoking and their decision to stop. Among other things, you may need to:
- Not judge them if they make a mistake and smoke
- Recognize the small steps your friend or family member takes towards quitting
- Decide that it’s also time for you to stop smoking
Start a discussion
Getting someone to talk about giving up smoking can be hard. To start a conversation, look for a place to start. When someone indicates even a hint of wishing to quit, be as encouraging as possible.
- “My doctor advised me to stop smoking… What do you think?”
- “My wife is pregnant. Should I stop smoking for her?”
- “My kids keep complaining about my smoking. Should I stop for them?”
Tell them you think it’s great that they’re thinking about giving up and that you’re ready to help. If you used to smoke and quit, you can use what you learned from that. Tell them how much better you feel since you quit smoking. You could say:
- “I think it’s great that you’re trying to stop smoking. I’ll help you in any way you need to get it done.”
- “It will be hard to stop smoking, but I know you can do it. Have you set a quit date?”
- “You’re not alone in this. I’ll be there for you even if things get hard.”
- “I did the best thing I ever did when I quit smoking. If you need help, let me know.”
Setup a way in
If someone doesn’t give you a chance to talk, make one for yourself. Ask them if they’ve considered giving up. You could also try something else. You could say:
- “I heard that taxes on cigarettes have gone up again. Sounds like a lot. How much are you spending now?”
- “Last night, I saw a commercial with an ex-smoker who had lost teeth because of gum disease caused by smoking. I didn’t know that was a possibility. Did you?”
- “It seems like it’s getting harder to smoke in public these days. Does that bother you?”
Asking a person who is trying to quit smoking open-ended questions can help you understand what they are going through. You could ask, without judgement,
- “What makes you really want a cigarette?”
- “What made you decide to quit smoking?”
- “What has been the hardest part so far?”
- “What could I do to make it easier for you to give up?”
Listen to them
Getting them to stop smoking is not about you. Pay attention to what they say. When you ask a question, listen quietly and give them time to answer. Try not to add your own thoughts unless they’re requested, especially if they’re argumentative.
Your friend or family member won’t be able to stop smoking if you lecture, nag, or scold them. It could make them mad, and they might not ask you for help when they really need it.
Here are some things you shouldn’t do if you want to help someone stop smoking:
- Continually telling them why smoking is bad.
- Keeping track of how many cigarettes / slip-ups they’ve had.
- Continually asking if they had smoked today.
- Getting into an argument with them about how they’re cranky when they’re going through withdrawal.
- Giving them a hard time if withdrawal makes them hungrier.
- Getting mad if they slip up and puff / smoke a cigarette.
Give them things to do
Help a friend or family member out by helping them plan things they can do without smoking. If you still smoke, don’t do it around them, especially if you’re doing something you’ve suggested as a ‘smokefree’ activity or task.
Here are a few ideas for things to do together:
- Go and see a movie (and let them choose the show)
- Take a walk
- Set up a night to play games with a group of (non-smoking) friends
- Make a special dinner
- Go to their favourite place for dinner
- Sign up for a class like painting, cooking, or photography
- Go to a concert or live show
Getting cravings and having triggers is a normal part of the process of quitting. Help your friend or family member figure out how to deal with these urges until they go away.
Some people find that texting or checking social media helps them pass the time until the craving goes away, while others find that changing their routine or where they are helps. Talk about it and make plans for different situations.
Here are a few suggestions you can give them:
- Chew gum or suck on a lolly
- Use your mobile phone to play a game
- Put a toothpick or straw in your mouth
- Switch tasks to give life a change of pace
- Eat some celery, carrot sticks, or nuts
- Squeeze a stress ball
- Try to calm down by taking deep breaths
- Drink lots of water
Putting together a quit-smoking kit for a friend or family member with a few of these things to help them be ready to deal with cravings when they happen can help tremendously.
Be calm and hopeful
It can be hard and tiring to help someone who is trying to stop smoking. Try to stay positive, and please don’t stop trying for them. Your support is important.
When a person stops smoking, they may go through withdrawal, which can make them cranky and sad. Don’t:
- Take their moods to heart
- Tell them that their bad moods were easier to deal with when they smoked
- Tell them that it would be easier for them to just smoke again
It can be hard to deal with a person’s cravings. Don’t give them any reason to doubt that they can quit. Check up on them and let them know you’re there for them. You could say:
- “I can tell this is hard for you, but I’m glad you’re not giving up. Let’s do something fun to honour how far you’ve come.”
- “It sounds like you’re having a hard day. How about I make dinner and watch the kids so that you can have some time to yourself? You deserve it.”
Try not to punish them if they make a mistake
Your friend or family member might slip up and have a puff or smoke a cigarette at some point. Most likely, they’ll feel bad about it, so getting mad at them won’t help. You could instead:
- Tell them you know they can still give up, and remind them of how far they’ve come.
- Help them figure out what made them want to smoke, which caused them to slip-up.
- Help them think of a way to deal with the craving if it comes back.
- Ask if you can do anything else to help.
Here are some ways to deal with a mistake:
- “Slip-ups happen. Don’t give yourself a hard time about it! You learn as you go with hard things. Use this as a lesson to stay on track.”
- “It’s not easy to stop smoking, and many people have to try more than once before they can do it for good. I know you can do it, and I’ll help you.”
- “We should talk about what makes you want to smoke. Together we can help you stay on track. Just don’t light up the next one!”
Celebrate successes big and small
Recognize your friend or family member’s achievements and milestones in quitting smoking. Whether they haven’t smoked for one day, one week, or one year, you should celebrate.
Some other good ideas are getting rid of all the ashtrays in the house and anything else that reminds them of smoking. You could also try:
- Giving special ‘X days smokefree!’ cards to celebrate milestones
- Giving them tickets to a concert or show as a surprise
- Giving them a gift card for the store they like best
- Putting together a home-cooked meal
Recognizing the good changes they’ve made with a compliment can go a long way. For example, you could say,
- “The smokefree life works well for you – you look really great!”
- ” You should be so happy with what you’ve achieved. I’m really proud of you!”
Aid them in de-stressing
Quitting smoking can cause a lot of stress, which could make a person want to smoke again. If you see that they are stressed, you can help them break the cycle by showing them how to relax in a healthier way.
You could suggest one of these ways to relieve stress that don’t involve smoking:
- Close your eyes and take some deep breaths to calm down
- Have fun with a pet
- Take a walk
- Cook a nice meal
- Attend a yoga or light exercise class
- You could go to a comedy club or watch a funny show on TV
- Do a fun home project
- See a sunrise or sunset
- Do a crossword puzzle
- Talk with a friend at a cafe
- Take a nap
- Take a long shower or bath
Stay for the long run
The problems with quitting smoking don’t end when the last cigarette is put out. Cravings can come back after a few weeks, months, or even years. People who used to smoke often start up again within the first three months after they stop.
Tell your friend or family member that you’re there for the long haul. Keep celebrating how long they’ve gone without smoking, and give them things to do to help them deal with cravings. Your continued help might be all they need to make this their last attempt to stop smoking.
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