Supporting a family member or friend to quit smoking

Supporting and encouraging a family member or friend to quit smoking is the greatest gift you can give someone. Recent research has indicated that 85% of smokers feel that the best help that they can receive when quitting smoking is from family and friends. If your friend or family turns to you for support, follow these helpful tips:

  • Be encouraging: Wait for them to say it’s time to quit. Then offer your support and ask them how you can help. Let them know how proud you are and have patience. Try to avoid badgering and nagging. Encourage them to talk about their feelings and what they are going through as they quit smoking.
  • Give practical help: Help them get what they need. Help them make a ‘Quit Kit’, including stress balls, sugar free gum, straws, toothpicks, mints, toothpaste or anything they might use instead of tobacco. Add pictures of loved ones as motivation to stay quit. Link them to our audio guide podcasts, top 10 tips for quitting and other information. Provide them with the HSE Quit Team number (Freefone 1800 201 203) or take them along to their GP or pharmacy to consider the various medical smoking cessation aids.
  • Help them get through cravings: Reminding them of the 4 Ds: Delay at least 3-5 minutes and the urge will pass, Drink a glass of water or fruit juice, Distract move away from the situation, Deep breathe slowly and deeply.
  • Help them stay busy and distracted: This will help take their mind off tobacco use. Make a list of things that you can do together when the cravings are tough like going for a walk, going to the cinema, helping with house work or gardening, cooking a meal together or doing puzzles; sudoku, crosswords and jigsaws.
  • Be understanding: You may feel frustrated if your loved one becomes grumpy, irritable or cranky around cravings. Don’t take this personally. Tell them you understand quitting is difficult. Remind them this won’t last forever and this is just one of the positive signs that their body is recovering from the harmful effects of smoking. Remind them of the many benefits of quitting smoking for good.
  • Be a good listener: Reassure them that you are there to listen when they talk about quitting. Remember how far they have come and keep offering help and support.
  • Help in dealing with relapses: Stay positive, praise them for trying to quit, and for whatever length of time (days, weeks, or months) of not smoking. “Now you know you can do that much. You can get even further next time.” Remember this is a normal part of the quitting process. Remind them that they didn’t fail – they are learning how to quit. Encourage and support them to quit again. Think of the relapse as practice for the next time and not to lose hope. Remind them again of all the reasons why they wanted to quit in the first place and help them to forget about the relapse as soon as possible.
  • Celebrate: Quitting smoking is a big deal! Plan something special together to celebrate the quit date or encourage them to treat themselves now and again with the money they are saving. Celebrate key milestones – one week, one month, one year smoke free!

Additional tips if you too are a smoker:

  • Keep all cigarettes, lighters, matches and all reminders of smoking out of sight.
  • Don’t ever offer the quitter a cigarette (even as a joke!)
  • Always smoke outside and away from the person you're helping to quit.
  • Be aware of situations where you would usually smoke together - after a meal, with a drink, at a party, etc.
  • Work together to develop a plan to deal with these situations when they arise.
  • Why not use this opportunity to change your lifestyle and quit yourself? It might be easier to quit with someone who is trying to quit too!

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