Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center

Tips to Help Your Loved One Quit Smoking

How to Support Your Loved One as They Quit Smoking

With your help, this could be the year your friend or family member kicks the habit for good.

Smoking is an addiction. And, like any addiction, it is very challenging to quit. If someone in your life smokes and is thinking about quitting, your support and encouragement is critical in helping them along their tough cessation journey. Here are some tips for helping your loved one kick the habit for good. 

Be Their Cheerleader

If your loved one says they’re thinking about quitting, that’s a huge step. Respond positively, encourage them, and tell them you’ll be there to help and listen whenever they need you. But remember there’s a fine line between encouragement and pressure. “First things first, the person has to actually want to quit,” says David Balis, M.D., Director of Simmons Cancer Center’s tobacco cessation program. “We as physicians can provide things like medication and counseling, but they have to want to quit for any of it to work.”

If You Smoke, Consider Quitting, Too 

It’s often easier with the help of a partner. But if you’re not ready, you can still support your loved one as they work toward a smoke-free life by following these steps:

  • Don’t smoke around them. “Being around other smokers can certainly make it more difficult for someone to not smoke and can increase relapse for those trying to quit,” Dr. Balis says.
  • Don’t buy cigarettes if you’re together.
  • Avoid smelling like cigarettes when you’re together — change clothes, wash your hands, and use mouthwash.
  • Keep ashtrays, lighters, and cigarettes out of view.
  • Frequent smoke-free places.

Provide a Bit of Distraction

“Studies show that cravings really only last a few minutes, although to the person trying to quit, they can feel much longer,” says Dr. Balis. Help your loved one think of ways to distract themselves whenever they feel the urge to smoke.

  • Plan smoke-free activities, like going to the movies, taking a walk, going for a bike ride, or dining out at a new restaurant.
  • Put together a “quit kit,” with items that help diminish cravings. Chewing gum or hard candy, puzzles, a stress ball, and drinking water are all good ideas.
  • Encourage them to pick up the phone rather than a cigarette. “Even just a few minutes of texting or chatting on the phone can help someone get through a craving,” says Dr. Balis.

Recognize That Slip-ups Happen

You often have to fail to succeed, and that’s especially true when someone is trying to quit. “Relapse is extremely common, which is why we often recommend that patients use medications like Chantix for about six months to help prevent relapse,” Dr. Balis says.

If your loved one experiences a setback:

  • Don’t nag, criticize, or lecture.
  • Stay positive and don’t give up on them.
  • Help them identify why they smoke, what triggers their cravings, what made them decide to quit, and what you can do to help them.

Celebrate Accomplishments

Milestones big and small should be celebrated, whether it’s being smoke-free for a day or a year. Offer compliments on how far your loved one has come, and how much healthier they look. Celebrate with small gifts, like cards, flowers, or a special meal.

Share Free Resources

UT Southwestern offers free smoking cessation clinics that provide medications, individualized counseling, and unlimited visits, as well as a free eight-week counseling program to help smokers quit. Call 214-761-3139 or email canceranswerline@utsouthwestern.edu to enroll.