How to Help Your Friend Quit


Your help can make the difference in someone’s quit attempt. Those most likely to quit get help and encouragement from friends and family. The following are common questions friends have and some suggestions/tips on how to support your friend in quitting smoking.

Can I really help someone who is trying to quit smoking?

Yes. Once a smoker has decided to quit, they are most likely to make it when friends and family give their help and support. If your friend is on the fence about quitting, you can help them think of reasons for quitting, set a target quit date and let them know that you would be there for them if they decided to quit

How do I begin?

Ask your friend how you can be most helpful because quitting is different for each smoker. Techniques that work for one person, may not be helpful for another.
You might have tried to help someone and they weren't successful. That's okay. Remember you can be a big help, but it's not your fault if they aren’t successful this time. Let your friend know that just because they didn’t quit this time, doesn’t mean they can never quit. It takes and average of 7 quit attempts before most people are successful and each quit attempt gives them more skills and experience if they would like to try again.

What kinds of things can I do to help the smoker try to quit?

  • Let your friend they can reduce their smoking if  they are not ready to fully quit – even one less cigarette a day can improve their health and will make it easier if they decide to quit at a later date.
  • For the first few days after the smoker quits, be ready to help. They may want to talk all the time or want extra help when a tough situation comes up, like a coffee break, a party or after a meal.
  • Offer to call or check in on how they are doing. Ask how they are feeling, not just whether or not they are still not smoking.
  • No nagging, scolding or preaching. Instead, let them know how much you admire them for trying to quit.
  • Help them find replacements for routines they associate with smoking. For example, if someone smokes while they are driving, finding a new route can reduce cravings they feel.

What other things can I do to help?

  • Do fun things. Offer to do things together like eating at a restaurant, going to a movie or for a walk.
  • Try to see it from your friend's side. These feelings are normal even in smokers who succeed. Let him know you understand their doubts.

My friend is really worried about gaining weight. What can I say?

  • Some smokers do gain weight when they stop smoking but the average weight gain is 5 to 10 pounds. They are still much better off without smoking.  
  • Sometimes when people stop smoking, they really want sweet foods. You can help your friend stay away from sweets and instead offer them low-fat snacks like carrots, fresh fruit, plain popcorn or sugarless gum.
  • Offer to do things together where smoking doesn't fit in - swimming, jogging, or hiking. Many people find exercise helpful in reducing cravings, starting an exercise routine may be helpful in their quit attempt as well as any anxiety about weight gain.

Can I help my friend plan how to handle urges to smoke?

Yes. In fact, those who succeed in quitting plan ahead about how to cope with urges to smoke. Offer to help your friend think up some simple things that they will do when they get an urge to smoke. Here are a few ideas:

  • Call you when they feel the urge to smoke. Remind them that the urge to smoke will pass in about 20 minutes for most people- whether they smokes a cigarette or not!
  • Leave the place that makes them want to smoke. For example, a party where alcohol is served may make them want a cigarette. Go for a walk around the block, or better yet, stay away from parties and alcohol for the first few weeks.
  • Do some deep breathing if they are feeling tense. Breathe in and breathe out slowly to bring more air into the lungs, which will help trigger the relaxation response.
  • Refer them to Community Health in UMC 411, who can give them tips on how to quit and a starter pack of Nicotine Replacement Gum which can help with the initial cravings.

Do smokers really have withdrawal symptoms when they quit?

Many smokers do have symptoms during the first few weeks after they quit. Tell your friend you know that these symptoms are real and that they will not last long. These will go away as the body gets used to not having nicotine. Some common withdrawal symptoms are:

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Lack of concentration
  • Feeling anxious or restless
  • Depression
  • Anger, frustration, and irritability.

How long do I need to help my friend?

  • The first 7 to 10 days are the toughest—so your friend may need extra help then. Most smokers who relapse do so within the first three months. So try to keep in close touch for that time.
  • "Slips" (having a puff or smoking one or two cigarettes) are pretty common. If your friend has slipped, you can remind them of all the good reasons to stay quit. Praise all their nonsmoking efforts and don't guilt them on their "slips."

Ex-smokers may have an urge to smoke for months, even years, after they stop. This is normal. Remind your friend that these urges happen less and less often. You can also help celebrate quit-date anniversaries.