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Quitting Smoking: How Family and Friends Can Help

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Topic Overview

Helping someone decide to quit

You can gently encourage someone who smokes to quit. Think of your comments about smoking as only one event that moves that person toward quitting.

  • Start any discussion of quitting in a gentle way.
  • Let the person know why you want him or her to quit. Give the person reasons that are as important to him or her as they are to you. (Try "I want you to be with us for a long time" rather than "I'm tired of cleaning your dirty ashtrays.")
  • One good way to begin is to mention a new treatment option you have heard or read about.
  • Make it short (less than 5 minutes).
  • Ask whether there is a way that you can help him or her quit.
  • Repeat your attempt every 6 to 12 months.

Helping someone who is quitting

Family and friends are a valuable source of support and motivation for a person who is trying to quit smoking. People who have already quit are an even greater source of comfort and can offer tips for success.

If a person who smokes asks for your support while trying to quit, you can:

  • Help distract him or her. Join in the activities he or she does to decrease the craving to smoke, such as lunchtime walks or hobbies.
  • Ignore grouchy moods. Try your best to tolerate any bad moods. They won't last forever.
  • Provide a reward when he or she meets a goal or milestone without using tobacco.
  • Ask the person what he or she needs from you.
  • If you smoke, don't smoke around the person who is trying to quit. Don't offer a cigarette, even as a joke. Don't leave your cigarettes where they will tempt the person to take one.
  • If you have quit smoking, talk often to the person about positive changes in your health and sense of well-being. Talk about the times when you found it most difficult not to smoke and what you did to get through those situations.

Helping someone who relapses

Most people try to quit smoking many times before they are successful. Don't give up your efforts. If the person you care about fails to quit, you can:

  • Praise him or her for trying to quit, and for whatever length of time (days, weeks, or months) of not smoking.
  • Encourage him or her to try again. Don't say "If you try again." Say "When you try again." Studies show that most people who don't succeed in quitting will try again in the near future.
  • Encourage him or her to learn from the attempt. Things a person learns from a failed attempt to quit may help him or her be successful in a future attempt.
  • Suggest that he or she consider more intensive treatment when ready to try again.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: August 15, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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