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How to Help Someone Quit

Friends, family members, and significant others can play a big part in helping a woman become smokefree. That’s because women who feel supported are more likely to quit smoking for good.

About 40 percent of smokers who quit say that support from others mattered a lot in their success.

Follow these 12 tips to help the woman in your life quit smoking.

  1. Understand that quitting smoking is hard click plus sign to expand and minus sign to minimize

Smoking cigarettes isn’t a bad habit. It’s a serious and complicated addiction. That makes quitting smoking one of the biggest challenges many female smokers will face.

Deciding to quit doesn’t mean all thoughts of smoking immediately vanish. It takes time for cravings to fade, and it can take a person more than one try to successfully quit. Most people who quit don’t quit cold turkey on their own. They get a lot of help and support from friends, family, and significant others. That’s where you come in!

The more you know, the more you can help.

  2. Know your relationship style click plus sign to expand and minus sign to minimize

You may not realize it, but you and she have a style to the way you both deal with smoking. This style influences her smoking and quitting. Your own routines and habits can also influence her.

  • Maybe you didn’t mind her smoking in the past.
  • Maybe you argue about smoking.
  • Maybe you avoid talking about smoking altogether.
  • Maybe the way you interact about smoking has changed because of a pregnancy or health problem.

The relationship style you share influences:

  • Her smoking
  • Her quitting
  • Her health
  • Your health

Understanding your relationship style can help you understand what each of you may have to change to better deal with her smoking and quitting. For example:

  • Maybe you need to recognize more of her small successes when quitting, like taking her out to lunch after being smokefree for a week.
  • Maybe you need to stop criticizing her if she slips and has a cigarette.
  • Maybe you’ll decide it’s time for you to quit smoking, too.

Read more about Relationships and Smoking.

  3. Start the conversation click plus sign to expand and minus sign to minimize

Quitting smoking can be hard for her to talk about. So what’s the best way to start a conversation about it? Look for an opening.

Spotting an opening

She might say something that gives you an opening to start a conversation about quitting smoking.
Here are some examples:

  • "I’m thinking about quitting smoking."
  • "My doctor told me that I should quit smoking."
  • “I’m pregnant. I should probably quit smoking.”

Be ready to take advantage of an opening. Let her know you think it’s great she’s considering quitting and that you’re ready to help. If you’re an ex-smoker, you can draw from your own experience quitting. Let her know how much better you feel now that you’re smokefree.

Here are some examples:

  • “I’m proud of you for trying to quit smoking. I’ll help with whatever you need to make it happen.”
  • “I know quitting smoking will be hard, but I know you can do it. Have you set a quit date?”
  • “You’re not in this alone. Even if it gets tough, I’ll be here for you.”
  • “Quitting smoking was the best thing I ever did! Let me know if you need any tips.”

Creating an opening

If she doesn’t give you an opening, create one by asking her if she’s thought about quitting. The key is to ask—don’t tell. Telling her to quit can make her feel cornered or defensive, and that won’t get you anywhere.

It can help to bring up quitting in the context of something else, like smoking bans, an ad you saw or something you heard in the news.

Check out these examples:

  • “I heard on the news that taxes on cigarettes might go up soon. Sounds expensive. What do you think?”
  • “I saw a commercial last night that showed an ex-smoker who had to have his legs amputated. I didn’t know that could happen. Did you?”
  • “I’m really excited that you’re going to be a mom! Have you thought about quitting smoking?”
  4. Ask questions click plus sign to expand and minus sign to minimize

Everyone’s experience with smoking and quitting smoking is different. Don’t assume you know what it’s like for her, and don’t assume you know what she needs to successfully quit. Ask!

Asking questions that she can’t answer in just one word (like yes or no) is a great way to begin understanding what she’s going through.

Here are some examples:

  • “What made you want to start smoking?”
  • “What things make you crave a cigarette?”
  • “What made you decide to quit smoking?”
  • “What things have been stressing you out lately?”
  • “What could I do to help make quitting easier for you?”
  5. Listen click plus sign to expand and minus sign to minimize

Quitting smoking is about her—not you.

So listen to what she has to say. If you ask a question, be quiet and give her time to answer. Resist the urge to insert your own comments.

  6. Don't Lecture click plus sign to expand and minus sign to minimize

Lectures, nagging, and scolding won’t help her quit smoking. It might just put you on her bad side, and she won’t want to come to you for help when she really needs it.

Here are some things you should NOT do when trying to help her quit smoking:

  • Nag her about why smoking is bad
  • Police her by counting the number of cigarettes she smoked
  • Ask her if she smoked today
  • Argue with her about being irritable when she’s going through withdrawal
  • Give her a hard time if she has a bigger appetite from withdrawal
  • Get upset if she has a slip and smokes a cigarette
  7. Offer distractions click plus sign to expand and minus sign to minimize

For most smokers, cigarettes became a regular part of daily life. So there are a lot of people, places and things that might trigger a craving because they remind them of smoking. Offer distractions to help her deal with her cravings without a cigarette.

Adopting a smokefree lifestyle can seem hard. Lend support to her by helping her plan smokefree activities. And, if you’re still smoking, avoid smoking around them (especially if you’ve designated an activity as “smokefree”).

Here are a few activities you could suggest:

  • Go to the movies (and let her pick the show)
  • Take a walk
  • Plan a game night with a group of friends
  • Make dinner
  • Go out to eat at her favorite restaurant
  • Sign up for a class like photography, painting, or cooking
  • Go to a concert

Some triggers and cravings are unavoidable. Help her prepare by thinking of ways to distract herself until the craving passes. Most cravings only last a few minutes, so making a short phone call or finding a task to keep her hands busy might be enough.

Here are some ideas:

  • Chew gum or (slowly) eat hard candy
  • Play a game on her cell phone (likes Smokefree’s WordWeather, available for free on the App Store!)
  • Put a toothpick in your mouth
  • Play with a rubber band
  • Switch tasks for a change of scenery
  • Munch on some carrot sticks, nuts, or celery
  • Squeeze a stress ball
  • Take deep breaths and try to relax
  • Drink lots of water

Consider putting together a smokefree survival kit with a few of these items so she’s ready to deal with a craving in the moment. Include a short message to keep her motivated, like “Keep staying strong!”

  8. Be patient and positive click plus sign to expand and minus sign to minimize

Supporting someone who is trying to quit smoking can be frustrating and exhausting. But you can’t compare it to the frustration and exhaustion she might be facing. Stay upbeat and don’t give up on her (or yourself). Your support is important!

The withdrawal that can come from quitting smoking is uncomfortable and might make her have mood swings or seem irritable.

  • Don’t take her moods personally.
  • Don’t tell her it was easier to put up with her moods when she was smoking.
  • Don’t suggest it would be easier for her to just go back to smoking.

Remember, the withdrawal is temporary, but the benefits of quitting smoking are long term. The cravings she might face can be hard to deal with. Don’t let her lose confidence in quitting. Check in on her, and let her know you support her.

Here are some examples:

  • “I can tell this is hard on you, but I’m proud of you for sticking with it. Let’s do something fun to celebrate how far you’ve come!”
  • “It sounds like you’re having a rough day. How about I take care of dinner tonight so you can have some time for yourself? You deserve it.”
  9. Don’t be too hard on her if she slip click plus sign to expand and minus sign to minimize

There is a chance she will slip at some point and smoke a cigarette. Don’t get angry. She’ll probably feel guilty enough, and a slip does not mean she failed. Focus on all that she has accomplished. Remind her that a slip is just one bump in the road.

If she slips:

  • Tell her you know she can still quit and remind her of all the progress she has made.
  • Help her figure out what triggered the craving that led to her slip.
  • Help her come up with a plan for dealing with the craving if it happens again.
  • Ask if there is anything else you can do to help.

Here are examples of ways you could respond to a slip:

  • “Slips happen. Don’t beat yourself up over it! Like anything tough, you learn as you go. Use right now as a time to restart and get back on track.”
  • “So you slipped. Quitting isn’t easy and many people need several tries before they quit for good. You got this, and I’m here for you.”
  • “We all slip sometimes. Let’s talk about what’s triggering you to smoke. That will help you stay on track this time. Just don’t smoke that next cigarette.”
10. Celebrate successes (big and small) click plus sign to expand and minus sign to minimize

Recognize her successes and milestones. Staying smokefree for one day, one week, or one year are all reasons to celebrate. So are throwing out all of the ash trays in her house, ditching any reminders of cigarettes, and passing on an after-dinner cigarette. Help her celebrate by planning one of her favorite activities.

Here are a few easy celebration ideas:

  • Send her flowers or a card
  • Surprise her with tickets to a concert or show
  • Give her a gift card to her favorite store
  • Make a home-cooked dinner

A compliment can go a long way to recognize the positive changes she has made.

  • “The smokefree life works well for you—you look great!”
  • “You make quitting smoking look easy. You should be proud of yourself. I am!”
11. Help her de-stress click plus sign to expand and minus sign to minimize

Quitting smoking can cause a lot of stress. And, unfortunately, many women may be used to reaching for a cigarette as a way to deal with stress. Help her break the cycle by finding healthier ways to de-stress. If you notice she is stressed, try suggesting a relaxing activity. If you smoke, remember not to agree to have a cigarette together—that will set her back.

Consider suggesting one of these smokefree stress relievers:

  • Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths
  • Play with a pet
  • Talk a walk
  • Make a nice dinner
  • Read the Sunday comics
  • Try yoga or a spin class
  • Take her kids on an outing and give her some quiet time
  • Go to a comedy club or watch a funny TV show
  • Do home manicures or pedicures
  • Watch a sunset (or sunrise)
  • Do a crossword puzzle
  • Meet a friend at a cafe to chat
  • Take a nap
  • Take a bath or long shower
  • Give her a massage
12. Be there for the long haul click plus sign to expand and minus sign to minimize

The challenges of quitting smoking don’t stop when a woman puts down her last cigarette. Cravings can pop up weeks, even months, later. It’s not uncommon for ex-smokers to start smoking again within the first three months of quitting.

Let her know that you’re there for the long haul. Keep celebrating her smokefree anniversaries and offer distractions to deal with cravings. Your ongoing support could be all she needs to make her next quit attempt her last.