How to help a loved one cope with withdrawal – and quit for good

Today is the Great American Smokeout, an event held annually to encourage the millions of smokers in the U.S. to quit or to make a plan to quit. Giving up cigarettes is one of the hardest things many people will ever do, so if you have a friend or loved one trying to quit, know that your support can make a huge difference.

Here’s how you can help:

  • Respect that the quitter is in charge. Be a good listener and ask how you can help.
  • Learn how people quit. Find out about quitting aids like nicotine patches, gum or non-nicotine medication.
  • Provide “supplies” to help them quit. This could include hard candy, gum or toothpicks, or even fresh vegetables cut up in the refrigerator.
  • Plan and encourage distractions. Take a walk, go to the movies or start a new hobby together.
  • Keep your home smoke free. This includes not only cigarettes, but also lighters and ash trays. Remove any reminders of smoking.
  • Reduce stress by helping with chores, cooking or even childcare.
  • Don’t take it personally. Nicotine withdrawal is a real thing, so expect some grumpiness. Withdrawal symptoms don’t last forever, and usually go away after two weeks.
  • Celebrate! Quitting smoking is a big deal that should be rewarded.

Helping with a slip-up:

  • Don’t tease, blame or make the quitter feel guilty.
  • Don’t assume they’ll automatically relapse. Taking a puff or smoking a cigarette does not mean the quitter is a failure.
  • Be affirmative. Remind them of the reasons they quit and the positive gains they’ve made.
  • Help make a plan. A failed attempt to quit is a good opportunity to talk about triggers and ask how else you can help.
  • Be realistic. It’s not uncommon for ex-smokers to start smoking again, so remind the quitter that they aren’t alone.

How to help if you’re a smoker:

  • Be respectful. Know that when you smoke, it’s a trigger for someone who is trying to quit.
  • Keep your cigarettes, lighter or matches out of sight.
  • Don’t joke. Don’t offer a cigarette, even if you’re kidding.
  • Know that you can help. Even if you smoke, you can offer encouragement and praise to someone who is quitting.

Be positive, and let your friend or loved one know that you’re here to help for the long haul. Your support can greatly increase the chances of success for the person giving up smoking.


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