We’ve all heard about the dangers and lifelong damaging effects of smoking. Yet, most of us know at least one person who smokes or even may smoke ourselves. Despite recognizing that tobacco is unhealthy and harmful, to quit smoking is not an easy task. A person who is trying to kick the habit needs the support of friends and family to encourage them on the journey.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the prevalence of smoking dropped from 20.9% in 2005 to 13.7% in 2018. And while that trend shows excellent promise, smoking is still a harmful habit for many.
We know that smoking can lead to various diseases and long-term health conditions, including cancer, emphysema, heart disease, reduced circulation, and decreased fertility. Many of these health conditions are chronic and irreversible, so the earlier a smoker quits, the better their long-term health will be.
As loved ones of smokers, we may see just how dangerous and unhealthy the habit may be. No matter how much we want to help them, we need to recognize that they need to decide to quit on their own. As friends and family, we play an essential role in encouraging our loved one, but ultimately we can’t control their choice.
12 Ways to Encourage Someone Who Wants to Quit Smoking
1 – Acknowledge That Quitting Smoking Is A Big Deal
Nicotine is an incredibly addictive substance that affects not only our physical health but also our mental health. It changes our brains, which makes us feel dependent upon it. In fact, one study cites tobacco addiction as a “chronic brain disorder.”
Therefore, we must recognize and understand the power that nicotine has on its users.
Regardless of whether or not we have smoked ourselves, we need to understand how complicated this process can be for our loved ones. It’s going to be a big challenge and a significant accomplishment for the person.
2 – Understand That This Is An Ongoing Process
Because of the way nicotine does influence a person’s brain, we should also understand that quitting smoking is an ongoing process. It’s a significant life change that will take a considerable amount of time and effort. It will take time for the quitter to retrain their brain and replace smoking with new and healthier patterns.
3 – Each Person Has Their Unique Reasons
Regardless of your perspective, the one who is trying to stop smoking certainly has different reasons why they want to quit. As support for our friend or family member, we certainly know the dangers of tobacco and our reasons for wanting them to stop. However, it’s a good idea to talk with our loved ones to understand what THEIR motivations are.
In understanding why they want to quit, we can help remind our loved ones what they are working toward. This understanding can serve as a beacon for them to keep going despite challenges along the way. Most importantly, we must encourage them to keep going.
Every smoker has their own life and their own story. They may be influenced by money, health, family, career, or future goals. They may want to regain control over their own body. Whatever the reasons may be, it must be relevant to them and keep them motivated. In supporting this person, we can remind them during times of struggle or temptation.
4 – Put Yourself in Their Shoes
Statistics tell us that 70 percent of adult American smokers want to kick cigarettes to the curb. However, they grapple with giving up a habit that sends positive reward signals to their brain. For many, they have regularly been smoking for many years, so stopping is an enormous life change.
So muster up some empathy and put yourself into the quitter’s shoes.
Even if we have never smoked, we can think back to a time when we had to give up something. Your addiction might be junk food, caffeine, alcohol – whatever it may be. Only then can you understand the depth of the quit process.
5 – Don’t Be Pushy
Regardless of how much our loved ones’ bad habits may hurt us, we cannot change their decisions. At the end of the day, it is their life and their lifestyle choices. We need to respect that.
If we are supporting someone who is in the process of quitting, it’s vital for us to be there to provide positive reinforcement and encourage them. We can help guide them toward the right decisions and away from negative influences. However, being overly pressuring or forceful in our support is not going to benefit them at all.
If anything, this can cause more anger and frustration, which can ultimately backfire and lead them back to smoking. Therefore, we can be supportive and encouraging, but we must make sure not to cross the line.
6 – Be Understanding and Supportive Every Step of the Way
So many smokers say they want to quit. Yet, a significant number of those people never actually succeed. For most, it takes several failed attempts before they successfully stop. One study reveals that some smokers attempt a “quit” thirty times before they succeed.
As friends or family of the smoker, we need to acknowledge this.
No matter how much they may want to quit, it is very likely that they will slip up here and there. Just be understanding and encourage them to get back on the right track. Encourage your friend to be resilient and guide them away from negative influences whenever possible
It is also essential to recognize that any attempt they make is progressing from where they were. It shows that they have the motivation and are making an effort – two positive and crucial aspects of success. If they make mistakes or even go back to smoking regularly, we can remind them of their reasons. We should recognize their accomplishments and encourage them to try again.
7 – Don’t Criticize
If a quitter messes up or starts smoking full-time again after an attempt at stopping, we should not be critical. Likely, they already feel bad enough about it. Criticizing and making them feel guilty only worsens the problem.
We should still be supportive and understanding of their mistakes but let them know that we still believe in them. Feeling this positive support, the person will feel more encouraged to try again and continue making positive life choices.
8 – Just Be There
As someone goes through the process of quitting, there will undoubtedly be plenty of struggles and awkward moments along the way. The most important thing we can do is friends is simply be there to listen. So much of the time, just being present and available to talk and listen to our loved one is the most important thing we can do.
Simply letting the person know that they are not alone and that you are there can make all the difference. It’s so valuable for a quitter to have that positive support system.
9 – Help Develop Alternate Activities and Follow Through with Quitting Strategies
As a friend or family member, one of the most important things you can do is help them get their mind off smoking. It’s a good idea to work with them to come up with other healthier activities and habits that you can both enjoy.
These strategies and alternate activities can vary greatly depending on the particular person and their interests.
One useful alternate activity could be some form of exercise – walking, running, bike riding, or playing a sport. This can be a great way to deal with any anxious or restless energy that quitting smoking may bring on.
If the person is used to smoking at particular places or in specific social settings such as at bars or clubs, suggest alternative activities that you can enjoy. These could include going to a movie or smoke-free restaurant. These activities can also motivate you to incorporate healthier activities into your own life.
In developing these strategies and engaging in new activities, it’s always good to recognize any triggers. Help the person continue to avoid triggers or places that may give them the urge to start smoking again.
10 – Provide them with Outside Resources
We all know that no matter how close we are or how much we want to influence someone’s behavior, our desires aren’t always enough. When dealing with any kind of struggles or changes, it can often be helpful to get an outside perspective.
No matter how much we encourage our loved one, they may still need outside support. For many, it can be helpful to talk to doctors and therapists about strategies that can benefit both them both physically and mentally along the way.
For many people, support groups can be incredibly beneficial. There are plenty of support groups, both online and in-person, for those in the process of quitting smoking. These are so important in helping people connect with those who are struggling with the same or similar issues as they are.
Having this kind of outside support system can be so helpful for quitters as they recognize that they are not alone and that many others are dealing with the same issues as they are. There is power in numbers, and having this support network can be very powerful for someone quitting smoking.
As our loved ones continue on their journey to being smoke-free, we can continue to remind them of their accomplishments along the way, no matter how small. From merely going for a day without a cigarette to being smoke-free for six months, we can celebrate with them every step of the way.
12 – Emphasize the Positive
Remember to stay positive to encourage your loved one. We can often overlook this and point a laser-like focus on the negatives of smoking. For example, we tend to remind our loved ones of the ravages of nicotine on the brain or lungs.
Instead, emphasize the positive outcomes they will see when they beat their addiction. For instance, remind them that they will be able to keep up playing with their children or grandkids.
A focus on the positives (benefits) instead of the negatives (the dangers) will motivate your friend. Remember, they know the risks of cigarettes. What they might not see (yet) is how much better their life will be without nicotine.
Final Thoughts on Continuing to Encourage Someone Who Is Quitting Smoking–Even on Their Bad Days
There are going to be tough days, and our loved ones may even lash out at us during their withdrawal from smoking. We must continue to encourage and understand their struggles.
In the process of quitting smoking, we should always remain present and be there to enjoy the victories along the way. From small gifts to celebratory dinners, any little thing we do reminds our loved ones just how much we care.