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How to Help Someone Trying to Quit Smoking

diverse group of friends preparing a meal together

Smoking is a serious and complicated addiction, and quitting is hard. Most people who successfully quit do so only after several attempts, and with a lot of help from family and friends. Here are some ways you can support someone who is trying to quit smoking.

Talk the talk

  • Respond positively when your friend or family member makes a comment about quitting. Tell them you think it’s a good idea and you will support them. If you are an ex-smoker, tell them how quitting has helped you.
  • Bring up the subject yourself. Ask if they’ve ever thought about quitting.
  • Ask questions to help you understand why they started smoking, what makes them crave cigarettes, why they want to quit, and what you can do to help.
  • Listen to their answers.
  • Don’t judge, nag, preach, tease, or scold.

Walk the walk

  • Put together a quit-smoking kit with chewing gum, hard candy, a stress ball, toothpicks, and a water bottle to help your friend or family member deal with cravings.
  • Plan smoke-free activities such as taking a walk, watching a movie, taking a class, going to a concert or sporting event, or eating out.
  • Help with cooking, cleaning, child care, or other chores that will help them lighten the stress of quitting.
  • Celebrate successes – big and small – with compliments, a card, flowers, a gift, or just doing something nice.

Dos and Don’ts

  • Do respect that your friend or family member is in charge. This is their lifestyle change and their challenge, not yours.
  • Do try to see it from the smoker’s point of view – a smoker’s habit may feel like an old friend that’s always been there when times were tough. It’s hard to give that up.
  • Do remove anything from your home and car that’s related to smoking, including lighters, ashtrays, and odors. Wash clothes, carpets, and anything else that smells of smoke.
  • Don’t take grumpiness personally during their withdrawal from nicotine. Symptoms usually get better in about 2 weeks.
  • Don’t be too hard on them if they relapse or slip. Be positive, understanding, and supportive.
  • Don’t smoke around a smoker who is trying to quit. If you can, join them in the effort. It will help them, and it will also help you.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.