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How to help someone stop smoking

Do you know someone who smokes and you’re worried about their health? You’re not the only one. Smoking can lead to a number of health issues, so you are absolutely right to be concerned about friends and family who smoke. 

Whether you’re wondering how to help your partner stop smoking or you want to know the best way to encourage your friend to cut down on cigarettes, we’ve highlighted some tips on how to help someone stop smoking in this article. 

8 top tips for motivating and helping smokers to stop smoking

1. Be understanding 

Firstly, try to put yourself in their shoes. People smoke for many different reasons, but sometimes it’s a way to cope with stress and anxiety, which will make it all the more difficult to give up. 

Considering the dangers of smoking, such as increased risk of developing artery disease and some cancers, you might be confused as to why your loved one puts themself at risk. Well, it’s important to understand just how addictive smoking is. People can easily become hooked on cigarettes due to the addictive substance nicotine which is found inside them. Anyone can become addicted to smoking, and if you’ve smoked for a long period of time, quitting can be even harder.

Once you understand the reasons behind why your loved one smokes, you can try to be more empathetic.

2. Get the conversation started

Sit down with your loved one and express your concerns about their smoking habits. When you do this, avoid being patronising, judgemental or becoming angry - this could push them away further. The likelihood is that they are already aware of the dangers associated with smoking but they are reliant on smoking to manage their cravings. That said, they might not be aware of how much their smoking impacts you and others who are close to them. Secondhand smoke can also be dangerous, so be honest about how you feel and your worries about how smoking both affects their health and those around them.

Focus on the positives and highlight the benefits to quitting smoking to them to help increase their awareness of how quitting smoking could really improve their health. Ultimately, the decision to quit is theirs, but reassure them that you’ll be there to support them when they are ready to quit smoking.

3. Help them understand smoke stop treatment options

There’s a wide range of aids out there that can help people to stop smoking. You can try to educate yourself on these options and discuss what help is out there with your loved one. 

It’s common for smokers trying to quit to use Nicotine Replacement Therapies (NRT) to help manage their cravings and wean themselves off of smoking. This is because nicotine is the addictive element in smoking, so getting their ‘fix’ somewhere else without consuming tobacco could work and help to reduce withdrawal symptoms.

NRT options include:

  • Patches (a patch which resembles a plaster that you stick to your body - nicotine is released into the body through the skin).
  • Inhalers which requires the person to inhale nicotine through a device that resembles an inhaler.
  • Mouth or nasal sprays (which the user sprays directly into their mouth or nostril).
  • Oral strips which dissolve in a person’s mouth.
  • Nicotine lozenges which are types of medicines that dissolve in the mouth.
  • Gums (similar to chewing gum which absorbs nicotine into the body).

You can talk to them about the above NRT options and encourage them to give them a try if they’re interested, but it’s important to understand that NRT won’t always solve the problem, and it’s possible to relapse. That said, they can certainly be effective in assisting with quitting smoking 

You could also highlight that prescription medicines are available which may also be of interest. These medicines include Varenicline (Champix) and Bupropion (Zyban) and work to reduce the cravings and withdrawal symptoms someone experiences when quitting smoking by stimulating the body’s production of dopamine which impacts how satisfying smoking is.

Finally, you can talk to them about switching to E-cigarettes (commonly known as vapes) which are basically electronic cigarettes that heat up a liquid containing nicotine which the user can inhale. They’re not as dangerous as cigarettes when it comes to health as they don’t create the toxins tobacco does, however, they are not risk free (NHS). This is because they still contain some of the harmful chemicals found in cigarettes, just at much lower levels. So, whilst they’re a safer option, it’s not advised that you use them forever, but rather treat them as a potential solution to wean off of tobacco smoking. As Cancer Research suggests, there is still not enough evidence to highlight whether vaping has any long-term effects on a person’s health. You can learn more about e-cigarettes and whether vaping is better than smoking here

Read Carola’s story on switching to vapes.

4. Plan (smokefree) activities together

Once your friend or loved one has chosen to quit smoking, they are likely to crave cigarettes as they experience withdrawal symptoms. You can help to ‘distract’ them them from these cravings by planning some fun activities together. For example, you might learn to cook a new meal together, get active by going for a run in your local park or even get creative and have a painting session. Essentially, do whatever it is that you and your loved one would enjoy doing to try and focus their attention on something else and be there for them during a time when they may be experiencing unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Make sure that when you plan an activity, you consider whether there'll be any risks with triggers (i.e. going to a pub together might make them crave a cigarette, especially if they pass a smoking area!).

5. Help to teach them new ways to relax (or relax together)

Managing cravings and dealing with withdrawal symptoms can be incredibly challenging. As mentioned earlier, many smokers turn to cigarettes in a bid to cope with their stress. With this in mind, you can help your loved one to find new, healthy ways to relax. Some things they could try include:

  • Practising meditation or yoga.
  • Going for a walk or being outside (if they’re used to smoking at work during lunch breaks, encourage them to go for a gentle stroll instead).
  • Taking a nice warm bath to relax their muscles.
  • Learning special breathing techniques that are designed to calm you down.

6. Point them to further support

Quitting smoking is a challenge, and while you can do your best to help your loved one to quit smoking, it’s a good idea to point them in the direction of professional help. You can nudge them to get support from the following places:

  • Their local GP - visiting their GP is a good first step in learning the importance of quitting smoking and understanding the treatments available that could help make the process of quitting easier.
  • Support groups - you could help friends or family members try to find a smoke-stop support group to join. By becoming part of a community of people who share similar goals and are going through the same difficult process of quitting, they could be more motivated to stay on track and share their progress with the group.
  • A community pharmacist - pharmacists will be available to speak to and they can also dispense prescriptions for smoke-stop treatments.
  • A professional health advisor or coach - health professionals are there to offer behavioural support and advice to help smokers on their journey to quitting smoking. Here at LiveWell Dorset, we have an experienced and friendly team of trained coaches and advisors on hand to help smokers create a plan of action (and stick to it!). 
  • Smoke-stop helplines - there are many UK-based helplines designed to support smokers, including NHS Smokefree and the British Lung Foundation. If the person you are trying to help quit smoke lives in Dorset, they’ll also be able to call our freephone on 0800 840 1628 to speak to our team.

Learn more about the different types of stop smoking support here and share this information with your loved one. 

7. Be patient with them

Breaking a smoking habit isn’t easy, and the person who you are helping to quit smoking may relapse during their smoke-free journey. If this happens, or if they are more irritable than usual, try to be patient and avoid getting angry with them as it can take multiple attempts to become smoke free. Research by BMJ Open suggests that it can take an average of 30 attempts for someone to successfully quit smoking. With this in mind, remind yourself (and the person you’re helping) that nicotine is a drug which is highly addictive, and if they do slip, you’ll be there to offer support and encouragement, it will just take lots of time, effort and motivation.

8. Celebrate each milestone

Keep your loved one motivated to continue their smoke-stop efforts by celebrating each success and milestone. From throwing away their cigarettes to being smokefree for weeks or months, make sure you recognise their hard efforts and encourage them to keep up the great work! In terms of how you celebrate, you could treat them to a meal, plan a fun activity together or simply surprise them with flowers…whatever will put a smile on their face (just avoid treating them with things that could trigger their cravings).

Final thoughts

To summarise our tips for helping someone to stop smoking, here’s some ‘do’s and don’ts’ to remember along the way:

 

Do

Don’t

Try to sympathise with them and understand their reasons for quitting

Be angry if they ‘slip up’ and you catch them smoking a cigarette - remind them why they’re quitting and help them get back on track

Help them to understand their options for quitting smoking

Leave triggers such as lighters around or offer them any form of tobacco

Keep checking in with them and ask them how they’re feeling

Feel like it’s all your responsibility - you’re there to offer help but you can also point them to smoke-stop services/support groups

Be patient with them - quitting smoking takes time and you can really help motivate them

Go to places that may trigger their desire to smoke 

Celebrate their achievements (big and small)

Judge the person or be angry with them. Quitting is tough and you don’t want them to feel feel guilty or worse

Be open and honest with them as you express your concerns

Lecture them about their smoking habits or make their decision to quit about you

Here at LiveWell Dorset, our services are free to those living in Dorset, so you can point your Dorset friends and family members in our direction - we’re always happy to help!

Contact us today to see how we can help or let your loved one know that they can register to our services here

Lynette

"The LiveWell team are amazing. Every time I speak to them, they are so helpful. Having someone on the end of the phone is an amazing boost."

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How does this work?

The tailored approach LiveWell Dorset uses to come up with solutions to the things that are stopping us achieving our goals, is based upon work done by University College London developing the COM-B model of behaviour change. In this model, all behaviour is influenced by understanding a person’s capability to change, their opportunity to change and their motivation to change. By understanding which of these is the biggest barrier to change, we can tailor support accordingly. This model of behaviour change is at the centre of the support we offer, online and in person.

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