10 Ways to Support a Quitter

by 2Morrow

10 Ways to Support a Quitter

Quitting smoking is one of the most difficult habits to break. Each year, half of all smokers in the United States attempt to quit. Without help, only 4-5% succeed. If you know someone who is trying to quit, having support from friends and family can greatly increase their chances of quitting. Each quit attempt helps! On average it takes 9-12 attempts to quit or stay smoke-free. The following are some suggestions on how you can help your friend or loved one quit smoking for good.

1. Ask “How can I help?”
Sometimes the best way to help is simply to ask. By asking, you’re showing you want to support them and you’re willing to listen. Some people love encouragement, others don’t want anyone to make a big deal about it. Everyone is a bit different. Do your best to follow through. 

2. Focus on support, not judgment
Most people know smoking is bad for them and that quitting will be hard. Fear of failure and judgment can make it hard to try again. Unless they tell you otherwise, focus your help on expressing support and belief that they will eventually succeed if they keep trying. 

3. Ask them “why” they want to quit
Understanding why someone wants to quit does two things. It helps them focus on what really matters to them and it helps you understand their motivations. Later, you can help remind them.

4. Cheer them on
An occasional, “how are things going”, “I’m proud of you”, “you can do this”, or “I’m rooting for you!”, can be the pick-me-up they need on a hard day or to keep up momentum after a slip. Next time you think of your friend or loved one send them a quick email, text message, or leave them a note cheering them on.

5. Share your belief that they can quit
Share your belief—especially if they struggle or slip. Let them know that you’re confident they can succeed. Express your belief in them when they doubt themselves. 

6. Offer to do fun, smoke-free activities
Now that they’re not smoking, they’ll have a lot of free time on their hands. Help them fill it with activities they enjoy like going out to eat, shopping, or working out. If you’re supporting a co-worker you might offer to go on a walk with them during your break. 

7. If you smoke, don’t smoke around the quitter
It is very hard for a smoker to quit when their friends and family smoke. One of the best things you can do to support your friend is to tell them you support their efforts and then not smoke around them.  Try to do non-smoking activities together and if you need to smoke, excuse yourself or go outside. 

8. Be a lifeline - Let them “Phone a Friend”
Let them know you’re there for them when times get tough. Sometimes, the urge to smoke can be very strong and a chat with a friend can help. Give them your phone number and do your best to answer if they call.

9. Give them a break
Nicotine is highly addictive and for most people it is physically and mentally uncomfortable when they quit. The first 1-2 weeks are usually the hardest, but for some people withdrawal symptoms last longer. Be supportive and understanding.  It may take multiple attempts over time.  Each attempt improves their chances of quitting.

10. If they slip…
They’re probably feeling bad and having self-judging thoughts like, “I failed, I’ll never quit.” Remind them that change takes practice and is seldom a straight line. Praise their progress so far. Remind them why they’re quitting without nagging. Let them know you’re proud of them and you know they can quit for good.

What if they don’t want to quit?  You can’t make people who don’t want to quit, quit. However, you can tell them that you care about them and are concerned about their health. Let them know that if they ever want to try to quit, you would be happy to support their efforts.

What doesn't help? Most people do not respond well to nagging, unsolicited advice, ridicule, judgment or criticism. If you want to help, stay focused on being supportive.

Other resources: 

  • SmartQuit - Look for evidence-based programs like app-based SmartQuit
  • Quitlines
  • Smokefree.gov
  • Your doctor
  • Your health plan (most cover the cost of meds without charge to you)
  • Your employer (many offer coaching programs like SmartQuit or quitlines)
  • Quit Meds