Want to help someone quit smoking? A relative, a dear friend, a sibling, a co-worker?
Many people in your shoes want to know how to help them quit smoking because you care, and you don’t want them to develop a serious illness.
Besides, it’s not as “attractive” or “sexy” as it was back in the ’40s when Humphrey Bogart stood in the fog-filled airport with Ingrid Bergman, a cigarette hanging out of his mouth.
The question “how to help someone quit smoking” is easier asked than answered, because in the end, it all comes down to the smoker’s own determination to quit smoking. If he isn’t ready, if he isn’t committed, if he isn’t convinced and determined, or if he doesn’t think he has a good reason to quit, it isn’t going to happen.
The first thing to realize is that you cannot force someone to quit smoking. Success involves having the right mindset at the start. If you try to force someone to quit smoking, your efforts will be met with resistance. If you insist, you will face their wrath.
It’s quite the dilemma. You want to know how to help someone quit smoking, but he is reluctant to accept the importance of quitting. Some people think cancer happens to someone else. Others believe they can’t quit smoking anyway, so why try.
Yet others fear the “pain” and “suffering” that goes with quitting smoking… the frayed nerves, the cravings, the weight gain.
Think about it. If someone tried to get you to quit drinking soda or coffee because it’s bad for your blood sugar or your stomach, would you be so willing if you were addicted to the caffeine? You tried to quit in the past but the cravings got too much for you. You’ve decided it’s worth the risk, or that it just isn’t going to happen to you.
It’s similar with the smoker, although the dangers are far worse. For them, continuing to smoke is less painful than quitting so they’re willing to take the risk.
Do you really want to know how to help someone to quit smoking?
The key is to find out how to make quitting smoking less painful for him, but first you have to convince the individual to accept the challenge.
First, let’s take a look at the whole process of smoking.
Smoking is an emotional action. It appeases something within the individual. The simple act of putting hand to mouth and providing something for the lips to grasp goes back to the days of bottle feeding.
For people who like to eat, it’s food that pacifies their nervous energy. Smokers relate having a cigarette to filling a missing need.
As a child, it was food and the pleasure of suckling. But what makes an adult desire the same action? Do they feel unloved? Do they feel deprived in some way?
It goes back to the basic human need for fulfillment and satisfaction. A sense of self and the comfort of knowing that those needs are being met by important people in their lives.
So the first step is to realize that you can’t force them to want to quit. Either they want to or they don’t, and there’s nothing you can do about their decision. If they have made the commitment, you can help someone quit smoking by offering your full, non-judgmental support.
That means not telling them they are “foolish” or “stupid” if they don’t quit. Be conscientious about their situation. Remember, it’s an addiction that needs to be broken, much like a drug addict or an alcoholic needs to wean off their addiction.
Don’t allow other people to smoke around the person you want to help quit smoking. Don’t take him to establishments that allow smoking (which are rare these days anyway). Don’t encourage his behavior. If he begs for a cigarette, deny him, no matter how much he pleads. Try to take his mind off it instead.
Work with that person to help him identify exactly what might be missing in his life that smoking fills. What triggers him to light up? How does it make him feel? What does he experience prior to lighting up? Is he nervous? Anxious? Worried? Lonely? Bored? Upset?
Now, this might be hard to identify because at this stage, his smoking has probably become such a habit that he no longer understand why he smokes. Try to get him to think back to the early days of smoking. What was he going through in his life at that time?
Was he trying to be one of the crowd? Trying to look or act grown up? Did he start because his parents smoked? Did he just accept that first cigarette to experiment and got hooked?
Get him to think ahead to what he would like out of life. Help him to realize how smoking might interfere with those plans, whether it’s the money or loss of health. Make him realize that the reason he started smoking is no longer relevant.
Smoking is often a stress-reliever, or so the smoker thinks, when in fact smoking puts more stress on the body. One of the best cures is deep breathing, rather than breathing in nicotine, tar and other horrid and dangerous chemicals. This exercise helps to force the lungs to expel the built-up chemicals in his system.
Encourage the smoker to get out and exercise, especially those that involve deep breathing. It might be walking, cycling, swimming, running/jogging, or time at the fitness center. It all helps.
Distraction is an excellent way to help someone quit smoking. When they get the urge, give them something else to think about or do. Make suggestions of something you can do instead. Work with them in any way you can.
Remember that you are not alone. Many people want to know how to help someone quit smoking, and they all face the same struggles you will. You will be constantly on the alert for that next cigarette so you can intercept it.
Another thing you can do is make them aware of the dangers, if they aren’t already. Remind them that they are not immune. Help them to find a purpose in life that can be taken away if they don’t quit smoking.
Having a strong purpose and a determination are the basic requirements for someone to quit smoking successfully. Until those are firmly established, there will be setbacks. There will be times when the person will just decide, or convince themselves, that it’s okay to smoke and trick themselves into believing that they can quit anytime.
Help by reinforcing the truth, but don’t become a nag about it. Just offer gentle reminders. They will most likely become ill from smoking – if not from cancer, then from some life-threatening condition that affects breathing, like emphysema. Just because they’ve had a setback doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t serious about quitting. Sometimes it takes a few tries to get it right.
This is how to help someone quit smoking. Offer support when they need it most. Offer encouragement when it seems appropriate. Seek whatever resources are proven to help someone to quit smoking.
There are some excellent and highly effective drug-free quit smoking programs around that teach the natural way to quit smoking.
Don’t lose patience with would-be non-smokers. Learning how to quit smoking is just that… a learning path. For some, it can happen quickly the first time they try. For others, however, it will be more difficult. That’s when it’s important to remind them of their goal and that you are there to help them quit smoking in whatever way you can.
Finally, find ways to make not smoking less painful. How do you do that? By discovering exactly what works. Substitutes for the hand/mouth movement are needed. The best is a glass of water. A simple solution but it works. Whenever a craving strikes, a sip of water will ease that craving. This is another way to flush those ugly chemicals out of the body.
In more severe cases, however, they might require a mild relaxant to ease the tension. This will require a visit to the physician, but it’s best to avoid patches, gums and other drug-related cures because they do have side effects.
Keep them focused on their goal. Focus not on the negatives of smoking, but on the positives of quitting. Remind them of how good they’ll feel – they will breathe easier, their cough will go away, they will smell much sweeter, they’ll feel more alive and fit, they will have more energy, their minds will become unfogged and crystal clear, they will save a ton of money, and they can even get a discount on their insurance as a non-smoker.
Perhaps one of the best things you can remind them of, is that the worst part of quitting is the first 14 days. Tell them to take it an hour at a time, rather than for eternity. The delay tactic is amazingly effective. By waiting another hour to light up, they will give themselves time to get busy. Before long, they will realize several hours have passed and they haven’t even thought about smoking.
How do you help someone to quit smoking? Offer non-judgmental support. Trick the mind with distraction, safe non-drug substitutes, exercise, and an alternative focus and before you know it, they will have quit smoking.
Sylvia Dickens is an ex-smoker who has been smoke-free for 32 years. Today,