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How to help someone quit smoking

Research shows that quitters who have someone to help them on their journey are more likely to quit for good, so it’s great that you want to help!

Helping somebody to quit smoking can be a difficult time for both of you. A smoker’s relationship with smoking can be complicated, so it’s best to be led by them.

Read these tips to guide you.

Understand if they want to quit

It’s important to understand whether they are ready to quit and, if they are, ask how they feel about the process. Remember, it’s never too late for somebody to quit, even if they’ve tried many times before.

Most smokers are aware of the risks of smoking, so try not to nag or lecture them. Instead, have a conversation with them about their smoking and if they want to quit, how they want you to help.

If they’re not ready to quit right now, try to respect their decision. Explain how it makes you feel and help them understand your feelings but try not to force them into quitting.

If they’re ready to quit, understand why

We all know the benefits of quitting, but everyone who wants to stop smoking has to find their own reasons for wanting to do so. You can help them identify their reasons and use them as a reminder to help keep them on track.

There are many reasons people might choose to quit, but the most common are:

  • for their children and family
  • to improve general fitness and wellbeing
  • to help reach an important milestone or life event, such as a big birthday or buying a new home
  • to save money or improve finances

Did you know?

After 48 hours, a smoker's senses of taste and smell begin to improve and all carbon monoxide is flushed out of their body.

Understanding their cravings and triggers

Cravings can be especially hard to beat in the first 3 weeks. This is when their body will be adjusting to the lack of nicotine.

Nicotine, found in cigarettes, is highly addictive and makes quitting hard. They might experience feelings of stress, sadness, anxiety or brain fog. They might also have trouble sleeping during this time.

Cravings can be brought on by things called triggers. They are places, events or emotions that may cause your quitter to crave a cigarette.

Each person will have their own triggers, but some common examples are:

  • environmental triggers — social situations and events that involve alcohol or cigarettes
  • workplace breaks and routine work environments
  • emotional triggers — when somebody feels an intense emotion, such as stress

Help them identify their triggers and think about how they can plan to avoid them.

Support and tools to help them quit

There are a range of free tools and services to help your quitter succeed.

From apps, to online communities and local Stop Smoking Services, help is easy to access. Evidence shows people are 3 times more likely to quit for good with professional support.

You could share the range of free support available.

Ways to help someone stop smoking

Discuss a Quit Plan

Once they’ve committed to the idea of stopping smoking, you could begin to discuss a plan to quit with them.

Agree on a date and start to plan for it. They could start with this free Better Health personal quit plan.

Remember that quitting is tough, help them to keep an open mind about their plan and create a safe space for them to share their frustrations and challenges.

If they’ve tried to quit before, ask them to reflect on what worked and what didn’t. This will help them build a stronger plan.

Discuss vaping (e-cigarettes) and nicotine replacement therapy (NRT)

If they’re not using them already, you can suggest vaping or nicotine replacement therapy to them.

Vaping is one of the most effective tools for quitting smoking. They may find switching to a vape easier than expected and research shows that vapers who vape every day are much more likely to quit smoking for good. Find out more about vaping.

There is a range of stop smoking aids, known as nicotine replacement therapy. Your quitter may need to try a few variations or combinations before finding what works best for them.

Keep them motivated

Use their reasons for quitting as a reminder to keep them motivated.

Check in from time to time to talk about how they feel. They might notice good things are starting to happen.

Put reminders up around the home of why they chose to quit in the first place. This could be pictures of family or friends, a tally of how much money they’re saving or simply ticking off each smoke-free day on the calendar.

Create a distraction plan

Distractions can take their mind away from thinking about smoking.

You can help them create a list of things to try.

Here are some examples of distractions:

  • getting active with a walk, run or visit to the gym
  • listening to their favourite music
  • chewing minty sugar-free gum or eating sugar-free mints
  • calling a friend or family member
  • practicing a hobby
  • a fidget toy or soft squeeze ball to keep their hands busy
  • taking deep, slow breaths for 2 minutes to help relax their mind and body

Put the list up in the kitchen or suggest they save it on their phone so they can quickly find ways to beat the craving.

Create a smoke-free space

If you smoke, try to support your quitter by trying not to smoke around them or in the home.

Help your quitter to remove any triggers like lighters, ashtrays or hidden cigarette packets. You might also want to check clothing pockets too!

Celebrate success

Celebrate the little successes they experience along the way, whether that’s 1 smoke-free day or 10. This can help them keep a positive mindset and focused on their goal.

Some ways to celebrate success:

  • give them a gift
  • congratulate them or say well done
  • treat them to something they enjoy

Track their overall progress and don’t focus on the tough moments, the days will start to add up!

How to help with setbacks or relapses

Remember to tell them how proud you are of them and that most people try multiple times before they’re successful.

Reassure them that they haven’t failed, and that their time spent smoke-free was an incredible achievement. A single relapse is no reason to give up. They can start again as soon as they feel ready.

Encourage your quitter to think about what worked and what didn’t. They can use this when they try again so they’ll be even better at quitting next time.

Looking after yourself

It can be difficult to support someone to quit and it’s important to look after your own mental health too.

If you’re feeling anxious or upset, talk to somebody you trust and schedule self-care time to help you relax.

There’s lots of information and advice on Every Mind Matters to help identify and manage anxiety and stress.