Your partner or friend has decided it's time to quit smoking.
This is great news. You're excited, and you want to help. But you don't want your partner or friend to feel that you're coming on too strong or that you're "checking up" on him or her.
This Actionset will give you tips on helping someone who is trying to quit smoking. The information also applies to other tobacco products, such as chew or snuff.
- You can help someone quit smoking by offering support and practical tips. Ask the person how you can help. Suggest getting support and using medicine, and find out if it's okay to ask how he or she is doing.
- Only the smoker can follow through with the decision to quit. It's his or her choice and challenge. You can help by giving the person support.
- Most smokers don't succeed the first time they try to quit. If the person begins smoking again, don't be disappointed or make the person feel guilty. Instead, help him or her think about trying to quit again.
- You can help yourself understand what the person is going through by learning about how nicotine affects smokers, how hard it is to stop smoking, what medicines are helpful, and what support is available in your area.
Family and friends are an important source of support and motivation for a person who is trying to quit smoking.
Before offering help, ask if it's okay to help, and then ask what you can do. Don't assume that the person wants your help or that you know the best way to help.
If a person asks for your support, there are many things you may be able to do.
Share your smoking history
It is important to the person trying to quit to know whether you smoke, are an ex-smoker, or have never smoked.
- If you have never smoked: Tell the person that you have heard that it can be very tough to quit. If you know people who have quit, tell their quit stories. Don't make the person feel guilty.
- If you are an ex-smoker: Tell the person, but don't brag about it. Say that you know it's tough. And if you had to try many times before you quit, say so. Talk to the person about how quitting changed your health and sense of well-being. Talk about how you got through times when you wanted to smoke again.
- If you are a current smoker: Say so. Let the person know if you have tried to quit and failed. Tell the person that you believe he or she can quit. And pledge not to smoke around him or her or leave cigarettes or smoking supplies around. If you live with the person who is trying to quit, agree to smoke outside the house or apartment, or limit your smoking to one room. Better yet, agree to quit with the person.
- Give the person support. Let the person know that you're willing to talk or visit anytime he or she wants you to. When the person meets a quit-smoking goal, congratulate him or her. Treat him or her to a movie, give a small gift, or simply send an email or note to acknowledge his or her hard work and efforts.
- Ask the person if you can check to see how he or she is doing.
- Many smokers like to have something in their mouths. Keep a supply of hard candy, cut-up vegetables, or toothpicks in your home to offer to the person.
- Ignore grouchy moods. No matter how grouchy a person gets, continue to support him or her.
- Tell the person about the good changes you see. For example, tell the person if you notice that he or she is not as short of breath.
- Don't check up on the smoker, such as looking for ashtrays or sniffing for smoke.
Help with avoiding triggers
Smokers usually have triggers, which are things that make them want to smoke. You can help a smoker avoid these.
- Ask about the person's triggers, and see if you can help him or her avoid them. For example, if the person always smoked during a coffee break, see if you can call him or her to talk at this time.
- Do things together, such as going to movies or on walks. Activity may help the person think less about smoking and decrease nicotine cravings.
- Alcohol is often a trigger. If possible, keep the person away from places where alcohol is used.
- Help out with daily tasks, such as shopping or cooking. This could help relieve stress, which is a major trigger for smoking.
Help someone who relapses
Most people need more than one try to stop smoking. If the person slips up, let him or her know that it's okay and that you still care.
- Give the person credit for whatever length of time (days, weeks, or months) that he or she didn't smoke.
- See what you both learned from the attempt. Are there any triggers to look out for? Should the person try phone counseling, medicine, or nicotine replacement therapy?
- When the person smokes again, it may be a one-time slip. Remind your friend about how long he or she had gone without smoking and why he or she wanted to quit in the first place.
- Tell the person that it was right to try to quit, and urge him or her to try to quit again. Use positive language, such as "when you try again," not "if you try again."
There are many resources available to help someone quit smoking, and they make quitting more likely. Here are some ideas you can suggest:
- Join a support group for people who are quitting. People who have quit or are quitting know what quitters go through and can help you.
- Join a quit-smoking program. The person's doctor may be able to suggest one. You can also find them on the Internet.
- Call a stop-smoking hotline, such as 1-800-QUITNOW (1-800-784-8669).
- Try a free stop-smoking app if the person has a smartphone or a tablet device. The National Cancer Institute's QuitPal allows the user to track his or her progress and share successes on social networking sites. It also allows friends and family to record inspiring videos that the person can play when he or she is having a hard time with cravings or stress.
- Get counseling (by telephone, one-on-one, on the Internet, or in a group). The more counseling a person gets, the better his or her chances of quitting. Counseling sessions can also help if the person starts smoking again.
Current as of: March 22, 2023
Author: Healthwise Staff
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Christine R. Maldonado PhD - Behavioral Health