You know people who smoke. You want them to stop but aren’t sure how to help someone quit smoking. Experts say the support of friends and family plays a key role in the quitting process. The wrong kind of support, though, makes a smoker less likely to quit. What not to say, what to say and when to say it? Below are seven steps you can take to help those close to you kick the habit for good.
1. Support, don’t nag. Let someone know you are concerned that they smoke and wish they would stop, and that you’re there to help and support them if they decide they’d like you to. “The best thing you can do after that is ignore them when they are smoking and give them more attention when they are not smoking. The thing you should not do is constantly nag someone about their smoking.”
2. Focus on your own interests in their quitting. “Say things like, ‘I want you to quit because I love you and I don’t want you disappearing 10 years too soon,” says Edwin Fisher, author of the book Seven Steps to a Smoke-Free Life. “If I love somebody and they keep telling me they don’t want to attend my funeral, their selfishness is a compliment to me.”
3. Educate yourself about nicotine. Smokers have both a physical and a psychological addiction to nicotine, which is why quitting is so hard. People trying to quit may experience a wide range of withdrawal symptoms that make them irritable. The more you know about the addictive power of nicotine, the easier it is to be sympathetic.
4. Find out their reasons for wanting to quit. Talk to them about their reasons–for example, the health risks, the effect of their smoking on others or being around to watch future grandchildren grow up–to help strengthen their motivations for quitting. Remind them of these motivations when their resolve weakens.
5. Be a good listener. Many smokers find it helpful to vent to someone about their difficulties quitting tobacco. Let them know you are there to listen if and when they want to talk.
6. Expect setbacks. Most people try to quit from two to four times before they succeed, so consider a relapse part of the quitting process. Tell them you know they are doing their best, that they haven’t failed and to not stop trying.
7. Provide support after the quitting date. The pull to start smoking again is very strong, especially in the first few months. Counter this by making a big deal about their quitting, offering rewards for going a day or a week without smoking and helping them avoid situations where others may be smoking by inviting them to join you in alternative activities.