How to Help Someone Quit

If someone you are close to expresses a desire to quit smoking, they have just made a very important decision that will dramatically improve their health and wellness.

Understand that smoking is one of the most difficult habits to break. Relapse is very common. However, with your help your friend, colleague, or family member can ultimately quit successfully.

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How should I begin?

First, it is important to understand that every person is different and therefore their path to success will likely be different. So, it is probably best to begin by asking them, “How can I be most helpful to you?” This will prevent the person from becoming defensive and will help them understand that you care and are willing to help.

It may be a good idea to encourage a specific quit date. Also, it helps to be familiar with their habits, personality, etc. when helping them quit. So, if this is the case, you’re ahead of the game!

Important things to keep in mind

  • Quitting is more than just an exercise in willpower. In fact, the most difficult period is the first 7-10 days after quitting. So, patience is the key. Here are some helpful suggestions:
  • Use positive language – remind them you are there for support and that you are confident they will be successful. Give them praise.
  • Check in with them – be sure to call, text, email, and Facebook your friend and ask how they are feeling. Most smokers relapse within the first three months, so it is important to stay in touch. The conversation does not always need to be about their smoking behaviors.
  • Help the quitter get what they need, such as hard candy to suck on, straws to chew on, and fresh veggies cut up and kept in the refrigerator.
  • Spend time doing things with the quitter to keep their mind off smoking – go to the movies, take a walk to get past a craving (what many call a “nicotine fit”), or take a bike ride together.
  • Try to see it from the smoker’s point of view – a smoker’s habit may feel like an old friend that’s always been there when times were tough. It’s hard to give that up.
  • Celebrate along the way. Quitting smoking is a BIG DEAL!
  • Don’t doubt the smoker’s ability to quit. Your faith in them reminds them they can do it.
  • Don’t take the quitter’s grumpiness personally during their nicotine withdrawal. Tell them that you understand the symptoms are real and remind them that they won’t last forever. The symptoms usually get better in about 2 weeks.

What if they relapse?

  • Do not place blame or guilt.
  • Help them determine what caused the relapse and map out a plan to avoid that pitfall the next time.
  • Try not to nag. Instead, remind them what an important decision quitting is. Each time they quit, it is a step forward in the right direction.