If someone you love is a smoker who wants to quit, it's only natural that you'd want to give them your support and encouragement. But learning to live without tobacco is no easy task, and any major life change can be a touchy subject, so it's tough to determine the best way to offer your help. If you're wondering how to help someone quit smoking and aren't sure where to begin, here are six tips to get the conversation started and give your loved one the support they need.
1. Express Your Concerns
There are more former smokers than current smokers, but many people still die from the habit. Each year, about 70 percent of smokers report wanting to quit, and more than 40 percent try.
Let your loved one know you're concerned about their health, and remind them that you'll support them when they're ready to quit. Ask how they'd like you to help, and wait for them to reach out to you. Don't nag or offer unsolicited advice -- your loved one might not be ready to quit smoking just yet, even if they've expressed interest. Let them know you care about their health and want to offer your support, but give them the freedom to decide when the time is right.
2. Put Health Into Perspective
About 40 million U.S. adults still smoke, and cigarettes remain the largest preventable cause of premature death and disease. In fact, smoking is linked to nearly 1 in 3 cancer deaths in the U.S. While many smokers already know the risks of the habit, others may not realize the damage they're doing to themselves and their loved ones.
The most important step a smoker can take is to stop smoking. The health benefits of quitting are profound: Kicking the habit lowers a smoker's risk of lung cancer, heart and lung disease, stroke, peripheral vascular disease, respiratory symptoms (like coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath), and infertility for women of childbearing age. Help your loved one understand just how much they risk by smoking -- and just how much they stand to gain when they quit.
3. Offer Encouragement
Quitting is a day-by-day process that varies for each smoker. When trying to help someone quit smoking, it's important to stay supportive and positive by providing encouragement, especially on challenging days. Express how proud you are of their willingness to quit and the accomplishments they've made toward quitting so far.
Offer to check in on them via calls or visits to ask how they're feeling and remind them of their progress. Create a quit kit that includes gum, toothpicks or mints to help them when the urge to use tobacco arises. Your continued understanding and support will help them keep trying and succeed.
4. Understand the Addiction
Addictions caused from smoking are both physical and emotional: 80 to 90 percent of smokers are addicted to nicotine. In fact, smoking may be equally as addictive as cocaine and heroin, and it can be just as challenging to quit.
It's especially important to be patient with your loved one during the initial withdrawal period. The most common symptoms of nicotine withdrawal include anger, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, irritability, restlessness, difficulty sleeping, weight gain, and increased appetite. Remind your soon-to-be ex-smoker these symptoms are normal -- they may be unpleasant and intense at first, but they'll go away with time.
5. Slips Can Happen
For most people, the urge to smoke will subside after about a week, but slip-ups can still happen weeks or months after kicking the habit. If your loved one slips back into smoking temporarily, continue encouraging them to quit rather than criticizing the slip-up. Above all, stay positive.
6. Seek Outside Help
When you're learning how to help someone quit smoking, keep in mind that some smokers may require multiple attempts to become tobacco-free. If your loved one is having difficulty or suffering from severe withdrawal symptoms, help them find a physician, behavioral therapist, or group therapy.
Many people find giving up smoking challenging, but with the right information and support they can and will succeed.