How to Help a Friend Quit Smoking
Can I really help someone who is
trying to quit smoking?
Yes. Once a smoker has decided to quit, he
is most likely to make it when friends and family give their
help and support. If your friend has not yet made up his mind
to quit, you can help him think of his own reasons for quitting,
set a target quit date and offer to help in any way he asks.
How do I begin?
First of all, quitting is different for each smoker. So, ask
your friend how you can be most helpful. This will show that
you care and that you really want to help.
Maybe you've already tried to help a smoker and they weren't
successful. That's okay. Remember you can be a big help, but
it's not your fault if the smoker doesn't make it.
What kinds of things can I do to help the smoker
trying to quit?
Tell your friend that you think she can
make it this time - even if she has tried to quit before and
failed. In fact, most smokers have to "practice"
quitting a few times before they quit for good.
For the first few days after the smoker quits, be ready to
help. He may want to talk all the time or he may just want
extra help when a tough situation comes up, like a coffee
break, a party or after a meal.
Offer to call or visit to check on how she is doing. Ask how
she's feeling, not just whether or not she's still off cigarettes.
No nagging, scolding or preaching - this just does not work.
Instead, let him know how much you admire him for trying to
quit. Let him know that you care about him whether he quits
What other things can I do to help?
Give lots of praise and offer rewards for
getting through a day, a week, or a month without smoking.
Rewards can be simple - flowers, something to eat, a card.
Give rewards right away. Giving rewards right away works better
than rewards promised for the future.
Offer to do things together like eating
in a nonsmoking restaurant, going to a movie or for a walk.
Try to see it from your friend's side. He's not really sure
he wants to quit. Cigarettes have been a steady friend for
a long time. These feelings are normal even in smokers who
succeed. Let him know you understand his doubts.
Do smokers really have withdrawal
symptoms when they quit?
Many smokers do have symptoms during the first few weeks after
they quit. Some common ones are:
Lack of concentration
Feeling anxious or restless
These will go away as the body gets rid of the nicotine. Other
symptoms may be harder for you to handle. Your friend may
be grouchy, irritable, nervous or pushy. Try to forgive him.
Tell your friend you know that these symptoms
are real and that they will not last long. A week or two may
seem like a long time, but it will get better.
I quit smoking a long time
ago. Should I tell my friend it was pretty easy for me?
Quitting smoking is different for every one. You can be a
special help to your friend since you already went through
it. Let your friend know how glad you are that she is trying
to quit and praise how well she is doing. Ask how she is feeling
and what you can do to help.
Mention all the good things you have felt
since quitting. Short-term things are easier to understand
-- like fresher breath, more energy and no more smelly clothes,
stained teeth or fingers. Many ex-smokers talk about getting
control of their lives when they quit.
Forget any talk about how easy it was for
you to quit. Most smokers are addicted and it's hard for them
to quit. Instead, tell your friend that 45 million Americans
have quit smoking and that she can do it too.
I've never smoked. Can I really help a
friend stop smoking?
Yes, you just need to listen to him and encourage him to express
feelings and then, give him lots of sympathy. Did you know
that it's not willpower that helps smokers quit? Most are
addicted to cigarettes and have a really hard time quitting
on the first few tries.
You can also encourage your friend to get help from the resources
and web sites listed below.
I'm a smoker myself. Can I do anything?
You don't have to quit to be of help. You could really help
your friend by not smoking around him. You could also think
up new nonsmoking activities to replace those where you smoked
The best gift you could give your friend and yourself is
to quit smoking now. Your friend is more
likely to stay off cigarettes if you are not smoking. Married
ex-smokers are more likely to go back to smoking if their
husbands or wives smoke. If you decide to quit, be sure you
and your friend ask others to help you as well.
What do I do if my friend starts
Forget about blame or guilt. He is really learning how to
quit -- he is not failing. Remind him about how well he did
do. Each time he tries to quit is a step forward. Help him
figure out what led to his relapse and plan what he will do
next time in that situation. You may feel badly if he doesn't
quit. The best thing to say to your friend is, "Good
try! I still care about you and will help you next time."
Try to feel good yourself about all your
efforts to help. You can prepare together for the next time
your friend tries to quit smoking.
How long do I need to help my friend?
The first 7 to 10 days are the toughest and your friend may
need extra help then. Most smokers who go back to smoking
do so within the first three months. So, you need to keep
in close touch for that time.
"Slips" (having a puff or smoking
one or two cigarettes) are pretty common.
If your friend has slipped, you can remind him of all the
good reasons to stay quit. Praise all his nonsmoking efforts
and don't mention the "slips."
Ex-smokers may have an urge to smoke for
months, even years, after they stop. This is normal and should
not worry her. Remind your friend that these urges happen
less and less often. You can also help celebrate nonsmoking
You deserve a lot of credit for helping someone
stop this addictive habit. Your help can make the difference.
Those who are able to stop smoking are the ones who get help
and encouragement from friends and family.