Supporting a smoker who has decided to quit

If you are worried about a smoker in your life, this information is for YOU! The kind of support you give can either help or hold back his or her willingness and ability to quit. While you can't quit for someone, being there to help is great -- knowing what to do and what to avoid can make you an effective helper!

  • First: Understand the addiction.

    Nicotine is the addictive drug in tobacco products. For some users, this addiction is so powerful it can seem almost impossible to quit. Surviving even a few hours without nicotine can be painfully difficult and can make it very hard for a smoker to cope with routine situations and to behave naturally. Nicotine Replacement therapy can be useful to wean off nicotine as it offers a cleaner product (without dangerous toxins) that can take the edge off of withdrawal symptoms while trying to learn new behaviors.

  • Second: Understand the quitting process. It takes time and typically involves efforts to:

    • Concentrate and pay attention.
    • Deal with stressful situations.
    • Deal with painful or unpleasant situations.
    • Relax and unwind.
    • Reduce anxiety and depression.
    • Cope with boredom.
    • Stay alert.
    • Avoid unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.
    • Reduce discomfort in social situations.
    • Increase their enjoyment of pleasant experiences.

    Breaking nicotine addiction does not happen in one step. Instead, it is a five stage process. Some people may try to quit several times, or may shift back and forth between the stages before they are finally successful at quitting for good. You can play an important role in each of the five stages.

    Stage 1: Smoker is not thinking about quitting. You can support and care for your friend whether they smoke or not.

    Stage 2: Smoker is thinking about quitting but not yet ready to quit. Offer information about where to get help, but let the smoker decide when to quit.

    Stage 3: Smoker is getting ready to quit. You can offer to give up something too, as a sign of support.

    Stage 4: Smoker is quitting. You can treat your friend like a hero for trying.

    Stage 5: Smoker has quit. You can show them that you admire their determination.

  • Third: Understand how you can help

    While there are many common ways to help someone quit, it will be the most meaningful if you tailor your efforts to the specific needs of your friend. It is always helpful to remember to be sensitive, understanding and forgiving, as that sends a strong message that you are supportive and not forceful. Quitting tobacco may be the most difficult thing that person ever goes through.

    • Ask what would be most helpful for you to do.
    • Listen to your friend: respect what they are saying and feeling.
    • Tell them that you care about their health.
    • Encourage them to exercise as a tool for quitting, and offer to join them in exercising.
    • Tell them that you know they are strong enough to quit.
    • Offer to give something up yourself.
    • Help research methods of quitting, such as stop smoking classes or medications.
    • Let him or her know that you think they’re wonderful whether they are able to quit or not.
    • Be sympathetic to the physical and emotional symptoms of withdrawal.
    • Encourage them to talk about slips and relapses, and tell them that they haven’t failed, but are going through a normal part of quitting when they slip.
    • Remind them of the reasons that they want to quit

    • Lecture or preach about the harmful effects of smoking.
    • Tell a smoker that it’s easy to quit.
    • Give ultimatums (If you don’t quit this time, we’re through).
    • Make smokers feel guilty or blame smokers for their inability to quit.
    • Make fun of a smoker.
    • Smoke around your friend.
    • Offer cigarettes to anyone trying to quit.
    • Encourage your friend to smoke again.
    • Nag or complain.

Ask yourself if you are being a source of positive support, or if you are causing more stress when you try to help the person you care about to quit smoking.

Note: Quitting tobacco takes more than breaking the physical addiction. It also requires making lifestyle changes, and altering daily routines.

When quitting, it helps to be aware of your smoking patterns. Encourage your friend to develop a plan for how to live without cigarettes by finding out what makes them want to smoke, and planning ahead for those tempting situations.