You can play a really important role in supporting your loved one to quit smoking. It isn’t easy to stop smoking so having someone in your corner can really make a difference.
The reason it’s so difficult is because smokers become dependent on nicotine which isn’t particularly harmful, but it is addictive. When nicotine levels drop, which is usually after a couple of hours without a cigarette, withdrawal symptoms and the urge to smoke begins. During a quit attempt, it’s these urges that will often drive people back to smoking. It can take several attempts to quit before people do so for good. This can feel really upsetting for the person trying and will take patience from you.
To understand what you can do to support someone you care about quit for good, Stop Smoking London asked Susan Montgomery from the National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training, for her views. Susan explained “The important thing to remember is that the decision to stop smoking needs to come from the person themselves.”
“Some people have told us that their friends and family try to get them to quit by nagging. But this is unlikely to work. In fact, this can backfire as they may not come to you for help when they are ready to try. Try to accept that the person quitting smoking is in charge.”
“And when they do tell you they want to give quitting a try, be sure to let them know that you’re proud of them, you believe they can do it and you’ll be there to help them along the way.”
Do you want to help someone you care about quit for good? If so, these tips have been put together by Susan and Stop Smoking London especially for you.
1: Listen but don’t nag
When talking to your loved one about their smoking don’t lecture them instead look for conversation openings when they mention their smoking, for example “I need to stop”, “I’m so out of breath, I know quitting smoking would help”, “I’d save a fortune if I stopped smoking”, “the kids keep nagging me to stop”, “I’m thinking about quitting”.
Find opportunities in your conversation to talk about the benefits of quitting, linked to what they are telling you. So, if they smoke because they think it helps them cope with stress, you could share with them that people who stop smoking have less anxiety, depression, and stress, plus improved mood than those who continue to smoke.
An important step in helping someone quit is to help them with their quit plan.
Try to avoid offering your opinion, but instead help them to explore their options and ask how you can help with the plan they want to use. This could include practical things like removing all lighters and ash trays from your home, or just by simply being there to talk to if they feel tempted.
3: Tell them about the support available in their area
Smokers who use support from a local stop smoking service are much more likely to quit for good. Stop smoking advisers are experts in helping people to stop smoking, they are non-judgemental and understand the difficulties quitting can bring.
During their quit attempt, depending on their choices, you will have an important role in reminding them to use their stop smoking aids, to take their stop smoking medication and to encourage them not to stop taking it too early.
There are several stop smoking aids that they can choose to use. This includes three stop smoking medications; nicotine replacement therapy, Varenicline (Champix) and Bupropion (Zyban). Alternatively, your loved one may choose to use a vape to help them stop smoking.
Supporting someone as they try to quit smoking can be difficult especially in the first few weeks as they go through tobacco withdrawal. This can leave them feeling irritable, restless and low in mood. At this time, it’s important that you avoid saying things like “you were easier to live with when you smoked”.
You can help by reassuring them that you understand, by not taking their moods personally and by letting them know that their irritability and low mood will pass as long as they don’t smoke, not even one puff.
Another great way to help is to take some of the pressure off them when they tell you they’re struggling – can you help with childcare, cooking or other daily chores?
People who are trying to quit are more likely to want to smoke if they find themselves in a situation, or experience a feeling, where they would usually smoke. These are often called ‘smoking triggers’. By helping your loved one to identify and understand their triggers you will be able to support them in avoiding these. Or, if they can’t avoid them, you can help them to think of some tactics to manage them like using nicotine replacement gum.
Another thing you can do to help is to find distractions, for example spend time together going for a walk or watching a movie.
Encourage them to keep their motivation for quitting in mind, write it down, find a picture that represents this and encourage them to keep it with them.
It’s possible that at some point of your loved one’s quit attempt they may smoke a cigarette. It’s not uncommon for people trying to quit smoking to smoke again within the first three months of quitting.
If this happens, they will probably feel guilty and like they have failed so it’s important you don’t make them feel worse by getting angry or doubting their ability to quit. Instead try to listen and understand what they are going through, often life without smoking can make people feel like they have lost a ‘friend’ who has always been there.
Remind them of all the days or months that they went without smoking and encourage them to view having smoked as a learning curve, they can learn from this and establish strategies that avoid smoking in the future. To help get them back on track you could suggest they call the Stop Smoking London helpline on 0300 123 1044. They’ll receive one-to-one help to put together a personalised plan throughout their quit attempt.
8: Celebrate their successes
Finally, quitting smoking takes a lot of mental and emotional energy, so celebrating that your loved one is making a major and very positive change to their life is important.
You can do this by marking key milestones along their quit journey, for example one day smoke free, the first week, month etc. The celebration could be something like making them a special meal, a small gift or by simply telling them how proud you are.