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How to Support Someone Who is Trying to Quit Smoking

Updated on March 7, 2019

Do you have a friend or family member who has stated he/she wants to quit smoking? Have they told you this hoping you will support them and help them to quit?

Then don’t ruin your opportunity to make a difference by doing or saying the wrong things to the courageous soon to be ex-smoker.

I always hold smokers who want to quit in the highest esteem. What they want to undertake is beyond hard.

 In most cases the addiction to nicotine has become like a one-sided friendship of the harmful variety. As is true with many unhealthy friendships, It is a relationship that is difficult to severe and once severed it is a relationship that is difficult to keep at a distance, as this horrible version of a friend, is always waiting and anxious to get involved in your life once again

It is difficult when you realize you must keep a safe distance from someone that you love. You are always hoping there is room for compromise until finally that day comes when you realize a total break is the best for all concerned, especially for you.

Nicotine has become that traitorous friend for hundreds of thousands of good-intentioned people.

Here’s what to avoid doing or saying if you want to help someone to quit smoking for good.

Avoid Discouraging Words

“I liked you better when you were smoking.”

What a big no-no, even though they are words uttered so often to someone who wants to quit smoking but is finding the withdrawal and craving too much to handle.

While it is true the smoker may be exhibiting unacceptable behavior being short-tempered, impatient, depressed, or downright grumpy. Do you really want to be that person who encourages them to smoke again? 

 Can you not hang in there with the person for a few weeks while they try to withdrawal and end a potentially life-threatening habit?

"You failed again!"

Well that's obvious, do you really need to state the obvious? How is it helping the smoker, since it is akin to being told, 'I told you so'?

This type of attitude can be grouped into any type of nagging, lecturing, or demoralizing comments from family members, mates, or friends.

Don't go there, no matter how disappointed you may be that the smoker has had a slip.

Gather yourself and sincerely encourage the smoker with words like these: "I know it is hard, but I think you can do it if you try again." Don't forget to throw an "I'm so proud of you" every so often as well.


Avoid Discouraging Actions

Although this covers behavior that should fall into the common sense category of what not to do or say, too many engage in teasing or testing the will of someone trying to quit. Some think it is done in jest and is funny, but it is hurtful to the willpower and determination of someone trying to bare-knuckle it through the height of the nicotine withdrawal.

What is needed is an awareness of the fact that there is a time to laugh and a time to keep from laughing. In other words, testing someone who is trying to quit is heartless. Don't do it!

Don't Smoke In Their Presence

That just borders on cruelty to light up a cigarette and puff on it while your friend or family member is trying to quit the habit.

Surely you can find some other place to smoke while in their presence, can you not?

Are you a good enough friend to endure the inconvenience your friend's quitting is causing you?  If you answer no to this basic friendship test, then you might not be any better than the cigarette is for your companion.  Prove your worth, remember not to smoke if you are with someone trying to quit.


Become A Cheerleader

 Rather than engaging in negative actions, be that special friend who is a great means of support for the smoker. Be their personal cheerleader who only offers encouraging and supporting words that strengthen the will power.

Can the smoker call you on the phone when a distraction is needed in order not to smoke? A phone buddy is essential for the majority of people trying to quit. Make yourself available to those close to you who are trying to quit.

Don't allow a pessimistic attitude to engulf the smoker. It is easy to become negative if while in the withdrawal phase the smoker relapses and begins smoking again. Imagine if you reinforced the "I'm too far gone" attitude exhibited by agreeing with the smoker. Or if you remind them just how long they have smoked without being able to quit. Which would just make them feel it is an impossible mountain to climb.

Even a cliché spoken with love would be better than throwing in the towel with your friend.

So always cheer them on regardless of failures that must be overcome.

How Long Will You Be Needed?

It is hard to say how long you will need to be long-suffering.

Nicotine withdrawal usually peaks 3 days after the last cigarette is smoked and should subside in two weeks.  But even during this time of subsiding withdrawal, the cravings will come in waves.

Smokers have noted that even years later, out of the blue, they may feel a sudden urge to smoke. When your friend needs you, encourage them to wait 5 minutes for the craving to subside.

When suffering symptoms, remind the smoker that they (the symptoms) will usually subside in 2-4 weeks.


If round numbers are easier to focus on, make it a month from the time the last cigarette is smoked, to the time when cravings and withdrawal symptoms will become more manageable.

Remind the smoker the countdown has begun with only 29 . . . . 28 . . .  27 . . . more days to go.

Always remind them there is light at the end of their tunnel. A healthier life is just ahead.

When All Is Said and Done

After all is said and done, it boils down to the will power of the smoker and the ability to not accept defeat even if a slip is made.  There are things smokers should do to help themselves, but since this article is about what others can do to assist smokers, it won't be included in this writing.

Be a good and supportive friend so that you can look back with no regrets when your friends or others come to you for help to quit smoking.


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