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What should I do if someone I love smokes?

May 29, 2014

What should I do if someone I love smokes?

At Quit, we get around 20,000 calls a year from smokers trying, or intent on trying to give up.

Many are desperate. They've had a go, or several goes. They know the risks, they know the costs, but the addiction makes it hard.

We also get calls from family members worried about their loved ones smoking, the impact it is having on their health, and how it may be influencing the kids.

No matter what the reason is for trying to quit, we know that the more encouragement and support you can give your loved one, the more likely they are to succeed.

A few months ago we got a call from Leah, a 39 year-old mum of three. Leah was growing increasingly worried about her husband, Jarrod, who had been a smoker since he was 16.

Jarrod already had a couple of unsuccessful attempts at quitting under his belt. He found it especially difficult to cope with the pressures of work without smoking and the fact that most of his workmates smoked, didn't make it any easier.

Leah's concern for her husband's health was growing as his ability to recover from regular chest infections and colds seemed to be getting worse. Most importantly, she wanted Jarrod to be the best possible role model for their three young children.

Our Quit team talked with Leah about what quitting would mean for Jarrod. Not only would he overcome his nicotine addiction, but also the emotional and physical dependence that often comes with smoking. After speaking to Jarrod and suggesting quitting, Leah encouraged him to make the call to Quit. We worked with the couple to come up with a plan that would give Jarrod the support he needed.

Regular routines like morning coffee, a drink with friends, or sitting in front of the telly after work can trigger the urge for a cigarette. Leah knew it was important for her to be there for Jarrod and help him through these moments.

Leah and Jarrod identified that being in the van while working was his biggest trigger. They decided that every time a craving struck, he'd breathe through a straw or suck on a mint instead. After dinner, when he'd normally head outside for a smoke, Jarrod decided to take their dog for a walk. Quitting isn't easy, but 10 weeks later Jarrod was still off the cigarettes. Leah and the kids were so proud of him.

If someone you love smokes, encouraging and supporting them to quit can be one of the most valuable gifts you can give them. You don't have to be an expert - smokers often mention that just knowing someone is there to help and talk to is a big motivation for quitting for good.

Encouragement makes the journey a little easier to navigate. Celebrate little milestones, such as one week without smoking. Respect that it's their journey and don't judge or nag, but be there for them. Reassure them you're only a phone call away. Give them a ring or drop in for a chat, and see how they're going.

If your loved one has a relapse, don't make them feel guilty. Help frame it as a slip-up and not an excuse to return to full-time smoking by reminding them of their reasons to quit and helping them to get back on track.

Your belief in them reminds them they can do it and by supporting your loved one to quit, you can help make sure you share many more good times together.