Your partner or friend has decided it's
time to quit smoking.
This is great news. You're excited, and you
want to help. But you don't want your partner or friend to feel that you're
coming on too strong or that you're "checking up" on him or her.
This Actionset will give you tips on helping someone who is trying to
quit smoking. The information also applies to other tobacco products, such as
chew or snuff.
You can help someone quit smoking by offering support and
practical tips. Ask the person how you can help. Suggest getting support and using medicine, and find out if it's okay to ask how he or she is doing.
Only the smoker can follow through with the
decision to quit. It's his or her choice and challenge. You can help by giving
the person support.
Most smokers don't succeed the first time they
try to quit. If the person begins smoking again, don't
be disappointed or make the person feel guilty. Instead, help him or her think
about trying to quit again.
You can help yourself understand what
the person is going through by learning about how nicotine affects smokers, how hard it is to stop smoking, what medicines are helpful, and what support is available in your area.
some basic facts about smoking can make it easier for you to understand what
quitting is like. This may make it easier to help the person.
The smoker is in charge. Only the smoker can make
the decision to quit and to follow through and quit successfully. It's this
person's choice and challenge, not yours. You are not responsible if the person
Most smokers have to try many times before they quit for good. If the person starts to smoke again,
accept it. Don't show disappointment or make the person feel guilty. Tell the
person that when he or she is ready to try again, you'll be willing to help
Knowing why smokers relapse may
help you help the person avoid a relapse. People often start to smoke again
If you have ever been a smoker, you know how hard quitting can be.
If you never smoked, it can be hard to understand why people smoke and how tough
it is to quit.
So why do people have such a hard time
Cigarettes contain nicotine, which is
addictive. Nicotine changes the brain so you want more
of it. If you stop smoking and stop getting nicotine, your body fights back by
making you feel bad. This is known as
nicotine withdrawal. For some people, nicotine is as
hard to quit as heroin or cocaine.
But there's more to smoking
than nicotine. People smoke for many reasons, and these reasons also make it
hard for them to quit. Smoking may:
These reasons seem very good to smokers. Without
cigarettes, they may feel that something is missing in their lives. They may
feel that they can't cope without smoking.
Imagine how hard it
would be for you to give up a habit that you enjoy or that you think helps you
in some way when you have done it 10 to 20 times a day for months or years. What would you use as your replacement? How would you cope?
The combination of nicotine addiction and reasons to smoke make it very
hard to quit.
The reasons that
people have for smoking are important to them. Without cigarettes, people may
feel that something is missing from their lives or that they may not be able to
cope. Both answers are correct.
friends are an important source of support and motivation for a person who is
trying to quit smoking.
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 smoking history
It is important to the
person trying to quit to know whether you smoke, are an ex-smoker, or have
If you have never smoked: 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
If you are an ex-smoker: 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 smoke again.
If you are a current smoker: Say so. Let the
person know if you have tried to quit and failed. Tell the person that you
believe he or she can quit. And pledge not to smoke around him or her or leave
cigarettes or smoking supplies around. If you live with the person who is
trying to quit, agree to smoke outside the house or apartment, or limit your
smoking to one room. Better yet, agree to quit with the person.
Give the person support. Let the person know that you're
willing to talk or visit anytime he or she wants you to. When the person meets
a quit-smoking goal, congratulate him or her. Treat him or her to a movie, give a small gift, or simply send an email or note to acknowledge his or her hard work and efforts.
Ask the person if you can check to see how he or she is
Many smokers like to have something in their mouths. Keep a
supply of hard candy, cut-up vegetables, or toothpicks in your home to offer to
Ignore grouchy moods. No matter how grouchy a person
gets, continue to support him or her.
person about the good changes you see. For example, tell the person if you notice that he or
she is not as short of breath.
Don't check up on the smoker, such
as looking for ashtrays or sniffing for smoke.
Help with avoiding triggers
Smokers usually have
triggers, which are things that make them want to
smoke. You can help a smoker avoid these.
Ask about the person's triggers, and see if
you can help him or her avoid them. For example, if the person always smoked
during a coffee break, see if you can call him or her to talk at this time.
Do things together, such as going to movies or on walks. Activity
may help the person think less about smoking 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
Help someone who relapses
Most people need more
than one try to stop smoking. If the person slips up, let him or her know that
it's okay and that you still care.
Give the person credit for whatever length of time (days,
weeks, or months) that he or she didn't smoke.
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?
person smokes again, it may be a one-time slip. Remind your friend about how
long he or she had gone without smoking and why he or she wanted to quit in the
Tell the person that it was right to try to quit, and
urge him or her to try to quit again. Use positive language, such as "when you try again," not "if you try again."
There are many resources
available to help someone quit smoking, and they make quitting more likely.
Here are some ideas you can suggest:
support group for people who are quitting. People who
have quit or are quitting know what quitters go through and can help
quit-smoking program. The person's doctor may be able
to suggest one. You can also find them on the Internet.
Internet. The Internet gives you 24-hour access to information about quitting
smoking and to chat rooms that can provide support.
Try a free stop-smoking app if the person has a smartphone or a tablet device. The National Cancer Institute's QuitPal allows the user to track his or her progress and share successes on social networking sites. It also allows friends and family to record inspiring videos that the person can play when he or she is having a hard time with cravings or stress.
(by telephone, one-on-one, on the Internet, or in a group). The more counseling a person gets,
the better his or her chances of quitting. Counseling sessions can also help if
the person starts smoking again.
Test Your Knowledge
As soon as you know that your friend has quit smoking,
it's a good idea to jump in to help.
If you would like more information on quitting smoking,
the following resources are available:
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
6116 Executive Boulevard
Bethesda, MD 20892-8322
https://livehelp.cancer.gov/app/chat/chat_launch for live help
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) is a U.S. government
agency that provides up-to-date information about the prevention, detection,
and treatment of cancer. NCI also offers supportive care to people who have cancer
and to their families. NCI information is also available to doctors, nurses,
and other health professionals. NCI provides the latest information about
clinical trials. The Cancer Information Service, a service of NCI, has trained
staff members available to answer questions and send free publications.
Spanish-speaking staff members are also available.
National Network of Tobacco Cessation
1-800-784-8669 or 1-800-QUITNOW
The toll-free number is a single access point to the National
Network of Tobacco Cessation Quitlines. Callers are automatically routed to a
state-run quitline, if one exists in their area. If there is no state-run
quitline, callers are routed to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) quitline,
where they may receive help with quitting smoking, informational materials, and
referrals to other resources.
This website provides free information and
professional assistance to help support people who are trying to quit smoking.
The information provided is for both the immediate and long-term needs of
people who are trying to quit and for friends and family who care about them.
This website includes an online guide to
quitting smoking, local and state telephone quitlines, the National Cancer
Institute's national telephone quitline and instant messaging service, and
publications that can be ordered or downloaded and printed. There is also a link to women.smokefree.gov, which has more resources for women who want to quit smoking.
Quitting smoking can be hard. Here are some tools that
you can suggest to someone who is trying to quit:
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.