Of the roughly 1 billion people who smoke worldwide, about 1.3 million of them quit every year.
Indeed, smokers who quit drastically reduce their risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and lung failure, and cancer. It also helps improve the circulatory system, making it easier to breathe deeper. And if that’s not enough, some people even report that food tastes better after they give up cigarettes.
When it comes to kicking any bad habit, positive reinforcement is more effective than punishment. Here are some ways to help your loved one quit smoking, without making them feel alienated or ashamed.
When someone you love tells you they want to quit smoking, it’s important for them to know they have your support. Tell them you’re proud of them, and help enforce their quit date.
Some medical professionals say you shouldn’t offer your advice to someone who wants to quit smoking, as it can appear condescending. But, if approached the right way, you can help them overcome some of the same struggles you might’ve faced. Ask them how you can help before you offer unsolicited advice.
Another positive response is asking open-ended questions to better understand what they’re going through. What made them decide to start smoking? What about the decision to quit? What triggers their cravings? Questions like these will show that you are willing to listen and learn.
Don’t Be Overbearing
The last thing someone needs when quitting is an anti-smoking PSA. Avoid nagging, lecturing, and reciting the side effects of smoking. They’re already aware of the statistics; otherwise, they wouldn’t have decided to quit in the first place.
Likewise, don’t interrogate them about how often they smoked, or if they slipped up and took a hit. This is bound to happen — especially in the early phases — and patience is key in encouraging someone to quit.
Nicotine withdrawals can also cause increased irritability in quitters. Keep this in mind, and don’t take it personally if they lash out or get frustrated with you. (more)
The nicotine cravings will hit in full force during the initial stages of quitting. To help keep their mind off it, suggest taking a walk, going out to dinner, or organizing a social gathering. You might also consider taking up a new hobby, like photography or painting.
If you decide to go to a public place, like a concert or sports game, make sure that smoking is prohibited in the arena so they aren’t tempted to fall back into old habits.
And in the event that a trigger is unavoidable, here are some ways to help abate them:
- Chew gum or eat hard candy, slowly.
- Put a straw or toothpick in your mouth.
- Munch on carrot sticks, nuts, or celery.
- Squeeze a stress ball.
- Drink plenty of water.
Help Manage Their Stress
Sometimes, validating someone’s experiences just isn’t enough. To help take some of the weight off their shoulders, lend a hand by helping them with chores, childcare, or cooking.
Other ways to de-stress include yoga, reading, doing crossword puzzles, watching the sunset, or taking a long bath. There are even apps to help smoking cessation by offering distractions, like games.
You can’t protect your loved one from all the triggers of smoking, but you can at least make the home environment a smoke-free space. Wash the smell out of clothes, carpets, and drapes. It might also be handy to keep a couple of air fresheners throughout the house.
And if you do smoke, be sure to do it outside and keep your lighters and cigarettes outside. Nothing says hypocrisy like encouraging someone to quit while you continue to smoke.
Also, never offer them a cigarette — even as a joke. You may think you’re testing their willpower, but you’re actually just taunting them with what they can’t have.
Celebrate the Small Victories
For someone who wants to quit smoking, every milestone is worth celebrating. Do something special with them for one day, one week, one month, and one year without a cigarette to gratify the experience of quitting. It’s a big deal!
These milestones might also be an appropriate time to ask them how they feel now that they’ve quit. You could also compliment their efforts by telling them their hair looks shinier, their skin looks clearer, or their breathing sounds evener.
Help Them Find Alternatives
While nicotine gum and patches are one way of reducing the lung damage caused by smoke inhalation, they don’t eliminate the brain’s chemical dependence on nicotine.
Vape pens are another way to help a smoker quit. The act of putting it to one’s lip and inhaling mimics the motion of smoking a cigarette.
Plus, e-juices come in a variety of nicotine concentrations. So if your loved one doesn’t feel strong enough to kick the chemical altogether, they can gradually ween themselves off it by reducing their intake. Read more about how vape pens work.
You may need to help them adjust their quit plan, especially if this is their first attempt. Don’t give up on them. Instead, remember that your relationship exists beyond just trying to get them to kick the bad habit. Remind them that you’re in it together.
And if they relapse, it’s not the end of the world. Don’t revert back to citing statistics or health risks. Instead, remind them of all the reasons they wanted to quit and commend them for making it this far.
Help the Smoker in Your Life Quit
Now that you know how to help a smoker quit, you’re better equipped to take on the challenge yourself. Use these tips as a guide for what to seek out in others who want to support your decision.
Looking for more life advice? Keep tabs on our self-improvement section.