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Quitting Smoking: How Family and Friends Can Help

Overview

You can gently encourage someone who uses tobacco to quit. Think of your comments as only one event that may move that person toward quitting.

  • Start any discussion of quitting in a gentle way. Ask if it's okay to talk about it. If it is, ask what they think about quitting.
  • Let the person know why you want them to quit. Give reasons that are as important to them as they are to you. For example: "I want you to be with us for a long time." Don't try to make them feel guilty.
  • Ask if there are ways that you can help if they decide to quit.
  • Make this talk short. Ask if you can check with them later to see what they're thinking.

Helping someone quit using tobacco

Family and friends are an important source of support and motivation for a person who is trying to quit using tobacco. But 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 tobacco history.
    • If you have never used tobacco, 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 used to use tobacco, 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 use tobacco again.
    • If you currently use tobacco, say so. Let the person know if you have tried to quit and failed. Tell the person that you believe they can quit. And pledge not to smoke around them or leave tobacco or supplies around. If you live with the person who is trying to quit, agree to use tobacco outside your home or limit it to one room. Better yet, agree to quit with the person.
  • Give support.
    • Let the person know that you're willing to talk or visit anytime they want. When they meet a quit-tobacco goal, congratulate them. Treat them to a movie, give a small gift, or simply send an email or note to acknowledge their hard work and efforts.
    • Ask the person if you can check to see how they're doing.
    • Many people like to have something in their mouth. 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 offer support.
    • Tell the person about the good changes you see. For example, tell them if you notice that they're not as short of breath.
    • Don't check up on the person, such as looking for tobacco or sniffing for smoke.
  • Help with avoiding triggers.

    People who use tobacco usually have triggers, which are things that make them want tobacco. You can help the person avoid these.

    • Ask about the person's triggers and how you can be helpful. For example, if the person always smoked during a coffee break, see if you can call them to talk at this time.
    • Do things together, such as going to movies or on walks. Activity may help the person think less about using tobacco 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 using tobacco.
  • Help with a slip-up or relapse.

    Most people need more than one try to quit using tobacco. If the person slips up, let them know that it's okay and that you still care.

    • Give the person credit for whatever length of time (days, weeks, or months) they didn't use tobacco.
    • 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 uses tobacco again, it may be a one-time slip. Remind the person about how long they had gone without tobacco and why they wanted to quit in the first place.
    • Tell the person that it was right to try to quit, and urge them to try to quit again. Use positive language, such as "when you try again," not "if you try again."

Related Information

Credits

Current as of: November 8, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Christine R. Maldonado PhD - Behavioral Health