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Sharp Health News

How to help a loved one quit smoking

Nov. 3, 2021

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You know quitting smoking is hard, whether you have personal experience or not. If a friend, family member or loved one is trying to stop smoking, it can be difficult to know how to help them, but quitting is one of the best decisions they can make for their health.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), smoking is the number one risk factor for developing lung cancer, and smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths in the U.S. each year.

Kimberly Smith, LMFT, CWHC, a wellness education specialist with Sharp Rees-Stealy’s Center for Health Management, offers these five tips to give your loved one the support they need to quit smoking.

  1. Start with a conversation.
    When your loved one first decides to quit smoking, it’s important to sit down and have a conversation. Start by asking about their fears, hesitations and hopes. In return, ask them what they need from you.

    “Let them know you are there to support them,” says Smith. She encourages using open-ended questions, such as, “What can I do to make quitting smoking easier for you?”
  2. Seek out resources.
    One way you can help someone on their journey to a smoke-free life is to get educated yourself. Learn what tools are available. For example, the American Cancer Society and American Lung Association offer tips for helping someone who wants to quit smoking.

    “Finding information for yourself is just as vital as finding information for the person quitting,” Smith says. You can also gather a list of resources your loved one can use themselves. Look for tobacco cessation classes, support groups or articles that they may find useful.
  3. Understand what quitting will entail.
    Everyone quits using different methods, so always try to be patient and understanding. Keep in mind that cutting out tobacco can be very stressful for the person quitting.

    “It is important to listen to your loved one and not give unsolicited advice,” Smith says. She recommends that you aim to be that listening ear by asking questions like, “What is your biggest stressor right now?” Together you may also want to discuss and find replacement behaviors, such as chewing on flavored toothpicks or chewing gum, or sucking on straws.
  4. Plan fun activities and outings.
    Instead of turning to smoking when they are stressed or bored, your loved one should stay busy with other activities they enjoy.

    “Offering distractions to keep their mind off of smoking may be helpful,” says Smith. Going for a walk together, going to a fitness class or playing a game are a few simple suggestions.
  5. Focus on the positives.
    While your loved one may want to dwell on their setbacks, help redirect those thoughts to focus on what they are doing right. Compliment them on their progress and let them know you are proud of them. When they do have setbacks, you can encourage them by saying things such as, “You are doing really well,” and, “We can get you back on your path.”

Quitting smoking is challenging and takes time. Your support can help a loved one through setbacks and relapses, which may happen. By keeping these tips in mind, you can play an important supporting role in your loved one’s journey to a smoke-free life.

Learn more about Second Breath classes for tobacco cessation offered by Sharp Rees-Stealy’s Center for Health Management.

For the news media: To talk with Kimberly Smith about tobacco cessation for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at

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