If you have a friend or family member who has decided to quit smoking, there are many things that you can do to help them reach their goals. We’ve compiled a list of suggestions and tips to keep in mind:
Understanding tobacco addiction will help you support them. You can read about what being to addicted to cigarettes really means here. Acknowledge that you understand that quitting smoking is hard. The individual may be experiencing unpleasant feelings and discomfort related to withdrawal and your understanding will go a long way. You can read more about withdrawal symptoms and be ready to offer suggestions on alternatives to smoking.
Also, be mindful of what being supportive truly means. Nagging, pestering and focusing on the negatives don’t work for most people and will probably just want to make them smoke more.
We must show respect for the individual and avoid telling them what to do. People usually become resistant if told what to do, so saying “You should quit!” is probably not going to be very helpful. Remember, the person is the expert in their own life. Demonstrate patience and understanding. Be sure not to ask too many questions–many smokers want support but they do not want to be interrogated.
Be very positive about the person’s decision to quit smoking. Show them that you’re proud of their decision and that you believe in their ability to quit; you want to empower them and motivate them to take action with quitting. Provide encouragement and praise for any step they take towards being smoke-free. It is also helpful to reward their accomplishments with a nice gesture.
Focusing on the negatives of smoking (scary pictures of diseases and statistics on number of deaths linked to smoking) does not work for many people. Sometimes these “scare tactics” actually have the opposite effect; they create anxiety for the individual and anxiety triggers cravings for a cigarette! While these messages may motivate some people, at the Helpline we find it more effective to focus on the benefits of quitting.
It is very important not to nag, preach or criticize the smoker as this can be a difficult time in the person’s life. Be nonjudgmental. The individual is not a bad person because they smoke; the key message is that smoking is unhealthy and there are supports available to help them quit.
Community supports such as the Smokers’ Helpline service have been proven to work. Encourage them to call us at Smokers’ Helpline and we can help them find local or online groups.
Relapse is common and individuals often require additional support and treatment in order to achieve success with staying smokefree. Help your friend or family member to stay busy. Plan activities with them to distract from cravings. If they relapse, let them know it’s OK, and not to get down on themselves. Remind them that they have already proven that then can resist cigarettes, and to try quitting again. Share these helpful tips for getting back on track after a slip.
For more information on how to help a friend or family member quit, call the Smokers’ Helpline: 1-800-363-5864
If you are a health professional, an employer, or teacher, or if you work at a community organization: consider referring individuals who smoke to the Smokers’ Helpline! They will receive a call from the Helpline to let them know about the various smoking cessation services available and to have a discussion about different approaches to quitting. There’s no pressure to quit right away, instead the referral to the Helpline simply increases their awareness about their options!