For Friends & Family

Tips for Helping Someone Quit

Because it involves both physical and psychological addiction, smoking can be a difficult habit to break. The person quitting must not only deal with the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal, but must also overcome the powerful psychological urges associated with smoking—a habit that, for many people who have smoked for any length of time, has become ingrained in their daily lives.

How you support someone who is quitting will differ depending on the relationship you have with the person. What's most important is that your support makes it easier for them to get to their goal. Ask the smoker for ways you can help them quit successfully, and follow the general guidelines below.

General Hints for Friends and Family

For the person quitting, the first few weeks may be difficult. Your support can go a long way in helping them to make a smooth transition from being a smoker to being smoke-free.

  • Even if you've never smoked or don't understand why someone would smoke, acknowledge that the smoker may enjoy it on some level and may find it difficult to quit.
  • Be encouraging and express your confidence that the smoker will be able to quit.
  • Remember that the person quitting is in charge. They own the ups and downs of the quitting process and its outcome.
  • Let the person know they can lean on you whenever they need someone to just listen or when they need to hear words of encouragement.
  • Help the person quitting stock up on items that may help them get through the hardest stages. Things like toothpicks, carrot and celery sticks, hard pretzels and candy can help ease cravings.
  • Some people who quit are concerned about gaining weight. Help ensure availability of healthy snacks and encourage them by offering to be an exercise buddy.
  • If you live close by, help keep the person from thinking about smoking - do something fun or out of the ordinary - go to the movies or the bookstore, or take a walk to overcome a craving.
  • Help the person quitting by pitching in with child care, cooking, or cleaning to help minimize their stress level.
  • Quitting smoking is a major accomplishment! Celebrate milestones and successes.
  • Ask what you can do or how you can help them succeed in quitting.
  • Be patient. Quitting is different for everyone.
  • If you’ve quit, share your experience and support to help keep the person quitting motivated and restore their belief in the possibility of success.

If the Person Starts Smoking Again

Most smokers try to quit up to seven times before they are successful. Don't give up your efforts to encourage and support the person who is quitting. If the person begins smoking again:

  • Praise them for trying to quit, and acknowledge the length of time (days, weeks, or months) when they didn’t smoke.
  • Encourage them to try again. Studies show that most people who don't succeed in quitting are ready to try again in the near future.
  • Encourage them to learn from their experience. What a person learns from a quitting attempt may help ensure success in the future.

If You Also Smoke

A person who is quitting may find it too difficult to spend time around others who smoke. Seeing cigarettes or being around secondhand smoke can be a trigger to smoke again. Make an effort to quit. It's better for your health and might be easier to do with someone else that is trying to quit!

Smoking Fact

When you quit smoking, your risk of stroke decreases steadily. Former smokers have the same stroke risk as nonsmokers after 5 to 15 years.