How to Help a Loved One Quit Smoking - 7 Tips and Tricks

Healthy Living

Tammy George

Two friends hugging each other as one helps the other to quit smoking.

There can be no greater gift than helping a loved one quit smoking and possibly saving them from health issues down the track. We all know that smoking can kill and cause life-changing disease, however the habit is so difficult to give up that many Australians still smoke. Many reformed smokers credit the love and dedication of family and friends as the reason for their success in quitting the bad habit.

According to the National Drug Strategy Household Survey, 15.6% of Australian adults smoked tobacco in 2016. Rates are highest amongst people with mental illness, substance abuse disorders, lower socioeconomic groups and indigenous communities.

Wanting to Quit

Many Australian smokers want to quit for a variety of reasons including financial, social and health. Around 40% of smokers try to quit two times each year. A 40 year-old smoker who took up the habit in their teens will have had more than 20 failed attempts to quit.

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in Australia, so it’s no wonder so many people attempt to quit every year. The support of a family member or friend has helped many thousands of people stop the deadly habit. That’s why we’ve put together seven tips for supporting your loved one on their journey to quit for good.

Young woman sitting at a cafe and smoking by herself as she looks out the window, thinking about how to quit.

#1 Tell Them How Much You’d Love Them to Quit

It’s a fact that smokers on average don’t live as long as non-smokers. Tell your loved one that you want them to be here for you for as long as possible. Too many spouses lose their partner, too many children lose a parent, and too many friends lose a companion well before their time because of smoking.

Even if smoking doesn’t take them early, it can reduce their quality of life if they’re diagnosed with cancer, lung disease or another chronic health condition which means that they may need to rely on you to provide years of care. Caring for them long term would also reduce your earning capacity and enjoyment of life. Try to point out that their decision to smoke could have a detrimental impact on your life as well as theirs.

If they smoke in your presence, they’re also putting your health at risk due to secondhand smoke. Encourage them not to smoke around you.

Doctor conducting an ultrasound on a woman's neck as a result of smoking.

#2 Be a Quit Buddy

Whether you’re a former smoker who has succeeded in kicking the habit or you’re a concerned friend, offer to be their quit buddy. Being there when they experience a cigarette craving can help. Offer to go out for a coffee, do a hobby, play a game, anything to keep them busy and less likely to cave into the cravings. Know what concerns them most about quitting - if it’s a fear of gaining weight, offer to go for a walk with them. If they’re worried about their irritability or depressed mood, be that person who understands and listens to them.

#3 Encourage Them to See Their Doctor

More than anyone, doctors understand the importance of helping patients with smoking cessation. They’ve seen the health consequences smoking has on patients and know that quitting can improve a person’s quality of life and most likely extend its length.

A Prescription for Medication

There are prescription medications available that assist people to quit smoking. One study showed the drug varenicline achieved a quit rate of 23% over one year, compared to a rate of 15% for another drug bupropion and a placebo at 10%. Doctors often prescribe varenicline with support and counselling. However, some of these medications have side effects. Serious psychiatric adverse events have been reported in patients with and without a history of psychiatric illness. As a close friend or family member, you should be aware of the possible side effects and discuss any serious changes in mood or behaviour with their doctor.

A woman using a vape with nicotine e-liquids prescribed to her by the doctor to help her quit.

Provide a Prescription for Vaping

Some Australian GPs are prescribing nicotine e-liquids to help smokers make the switch from smoking to vaping. Research in the UK shows that although vaping can still have negative health impacts, it’s generally less harmful than smoking because it’s free of some cancer-causing agents found in cigarettes.

Not all GPs agree that vaping is a positive smoking cessation aid. Some doctors believe there’s not enough evidence around the safety of vaping and won’t provide scripts because they don’t know the exact ingredients in vaping products.

The Australian Government made it mandatory for anyone buying or importing vaping supplies containing nicotine to obtain a medical prescription from 1 October 2021. Nicotine vaping products, such as nicotine e-cigarettes, nicotine pods and liquid nicotine, are now a Schedule 4 prescription-only medicine

A person holding a cigarette in one hand and nicotine gum in the other to help them quit smoking.

#4 Suggest Gum & Patches

Very few people can give up nicotine cold turkey. Some people have used nicotine gum or patches to help them overcome the cravings and quit smoking. Suggesting the use of nicotine gum or patches and supporting them would also be helpful for your loved one.

#5 Encourage Them to Use a Quit Smoking App

If your friend or family member uses their smartphone regularly, they may find some benefit in using a quit smoking app. There are many free and paid apps available that allow users to record cravings, track the number of smoke free days, keep a record of financial and health achievements and play games to distract them when a craving hits.

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#6 Suggest Multiple Therapies

According to Quitline, combination therapy is using two types of nicotine replacement therapy together for the greatest chance of success. For example, a nicotine patch offers a slow, steady dose of nicotine which can take the edge off cravings while a fast-acting therapy such as a mouth spray, gum, lozenge or inhaler can assist for times when they experience strong cravings and feelings of withdrawal.

#7 Celebrate Their Success with a Holiday

Tell your loved one that you’d love to go away with them on holiday. Funding the holiday is possible if they save the money that they would normally spend on cigarettes. An international or domestic holiday could be a strong incentive to quit the habit. Tell them you’ll save together for the trip then start planning the holiday so they have something to look forward to and hopefully won’t want to let you both down.

A young woman helping her loved one quit smoking by giving her a hug and emotional support.

Remember to Stay Positive

If your friend or family member tells you they had a cigarette or they weren’t successful at quitting, it’s important to continue to show them your support. Remember, very few smokers are successful in quitting smoking on their first attempt,  they’re probably just as disappointed as you.

The fear of failure can stop some people from attempting to quit so staying positive is important. Tell them you’ll always be there to help in whatever way you can and look forward to supporting them again on their next attempt.

Tammy George

Please note: Tammy's blog is general advice only. For further information on this topic please consult your healthcare professional.

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