How you can help
Once a smoker has decided to quit, they are more likely to be successful when friends and family offer their help and support.
Ask how you can help
Remember that quitting is different for everyone, so ask how you can be most helpful to them. If they aren’t sure, let them know that you’re there if they need anything.
Offer them tools
Many people who smoke and may or may not be ready to quit benefit from using tools like One Step at a Time – You Can Quit. Leave a copy handy in case they decide to pick it up. You can also suggest the quit program on smokershelpline.ca or suggest they sign up for Smokers’ Helpline text support by texting iQUIT to 123456 (ON, SK, PEI only).
Show that you believe in them
Tell them you know they can make it – even if they’ve tried to quit before and weren’t successful. Remind them that most smokers have to try quitting a few times before succeeding for good. Tell them how much you admire them for trying to quit and that you’re there for them no matter what.
Get them to talk about how they feel about their decision to stop smoking
Cigarettes have been a steady friend for a long time and quitting can be scary. Strong emotions like fear of the unknown, fear of failure and anxiety are common and completely normal. Let them know that you accept their doubts and fears about quitting.
Share your own experiences
If you’ve quit smoking yourself, let them know how you feel about them quitting smoking. Share with them all of the good things you’re experiencing by being smoke-free. Try to stick to the more immediate effects like fresher breath, clean-smelling clothes, car and home, and no more stained teeth or fingers. Avoid telling them that it was easy for you to quit. Respect that their experience is unique and this is their challenge to overcome.
Take the lead from your friend
Be sensitive to what they need and never assume you know what is best for them. At different times, they may or may not want your help. Give them the space they need. They appreciate that you want to help, but sometimes they just need to do it on their own.
Be quitters together – what can you give up?
Do you want to make a change in your lifestyle at the same time? Maybe cutting back on unhealthy foods or working on a new fitness goal? You could make a change together and share your feelings and frustration while building your determination and motivation together!
Slips and falls are normal
A slip is when they might have one cigarette or even just a puff of a cigarette in a moment of weakness. They realize that it was not a good idea and they are still committed to quitting.
Encourage them to keep moving forward with their plan. Ask them why they had that cigarette and what they can do next time to make sure they don’t give in again. Help them remember the reasons for wanting to quit.
A fall, or a relapse, is when they purchase a pack of cigarettes or return to regular smoking patterns. Relapses happen. Encourage them to think of it as an opportunity to learn and be better prepared for the next time. They might want to quit again right away or they might not. Support them either way and let them know that you’ll be there when they’re ready.
Not everyone will stay quit on their first try. Don’t lay blame. Quitting smoking is a learning process, and they have learned how to do it better the next time.
Try to feel good about your efforts to help and be there when your friend is ready to try quitting smoking again.
What you need to know
How to talk about quitting
Quitting smoking is complicated, and for some people, it’s the hardest thing they will ever do. Quitting is not just about stopping smoking. It’s also about a smoker changing how they think and feel about smoking. Everybody tries to quit for different reasons, and some people may never want to quit. So how do you ask a smoker about quitting and show them your support?
Here are 3 tips and examples that might help you talk to someone who may want to quit:
- Don’t be pushy or mean about it. Show them that you are concerned for their well-being.
“Quitting smoking is unbelievably difficult, but I know you have the strength to do it. I want to help because I love you and I want you to be around for a long time.”
- Know who you’re talking to and how to reach them in a positive way.
“I’m really worried about your smoking. I’ve noticed that you’ve been sick more often than usual this year and I’m wondering if you’ve given any thought to quitting?”
- Keep your opinions to yourself. Really listen to what they want.
“Okay, I completely respect your decision to not quit right now. It’s a really personal decision and I know that one day, when you think the time is right, you’ll quit for good. I’ll always be here to support you.”
How to know if they’re ready to talk
They cringe whenever somebody mentions their smoking. They become defensive and don’t want to talk about it when you bring up quitting.
They are not interested in quitting. Respect their decision and leave it alone. Be ready to help them later when they want to quit.
They have talked about quitting. They are still committed to smoking but have made comments about maybe wanting to quit.
They are thinking about quitting. The next time they bring up the idea of quitting, let them know that you think they can do it and that when they’re ready, you’ll be there to support them however you can.
They have talked about quitting and maybe even set a quit date.
They are ready to quit! This is your opportunity to let them know how proud you are of them and to tell them that you’re there to offer any support they might need.
If they are thinking about quitting or are ready to quit: Keep reading! Tell them that you want to support them and are willing to do whatever it takes to help them quit. We can help with that, too.
Friend first, smoker second
In the end, no matter what choice they make or whether or not they succeed at quitting, they are your friend or loved one first and a person who smokes second. Show them that you care no matter what you think about their smoking.
Remember these tips as you move forward:
- The decision to quit smoking must be made by the smoker, for their own reasons and in their own time – you cannot make them quit.
- You can’t quit for them, but by supporting them, you help make the quitting process a little easier.
- Whether the smoker in your life is ready to quit or not, show that you care for them no matter what you think about their smoking.
- Avoid lecturing or nagging them – it’s not usually helpful.
Quitting smoking is hard, but it is possible. Every year, thousands of people quit. If your friend really wants to quit, they will get there and you will be there to support them and celebrate the day they can say they are smoke-free.