The Do's and Don'ts of Helping Someone Quit Smoking

How You Can Help the New Ex-Smoker in Your Life

Jenna Wagner/E+/Getty Images

Smoking cessation is a formidable task for most ex-smokers. Having the assistance of compassionate friends and family can make a big difference.

The tips below provide a framework of dos and don'ts for supporting the ex-smoker in your life. Remember, they are not  quitting a nasty habit, they are recovering from nicotine addiction. Try to be sympathetic to the difficulties that can come with that and you will find that you can truly help them succeed for the long term.

The Do's of Helping Someone Quit Smoking

Do give them space when they're grumpy without taking offense. Quitting can be an emotional roller coaster ride...happy one minute, mad or sad the next.

Do ask often how they're feeling and what you can do to help. Let them know you are there to listen if they need to vent.

Do suggest that they keep a daily journal about how they're feeling. Just jotting a couple of lines at the end of each day is enough to provide great perspective on the progress they're making. This is especially useful on bad days when thoughts of smoking are bothering them.

Do keep cigarettes, lighters and ashtrays out of sight if you're a smoker, and don't smoke in the house or in front of them.

Do stock the fridge and cupboards with healthy snacks that can be picked up at a moment's notice. Treats like cleaned and cut up veggies with hummus, fresh fruit, light popcorn and sunflower seeds in the shell are helpful for edgy ex-smokers looking to fill a void.

Do offer to cook dinner, do the dishes and help out more with general household chores. The early days of smoking cessation are a struggle for most ex-smokers, and a little pampering goes a long way in making them feel more comfortable.

Do remember their quit date and note their milestones  (first smoke-freeweek, month, vacation, etc) without them having to mention it.

It will mean a lot to the ex-smoker in your life.

Do surprise them with little rewards in between milestones to show how proud you are of them and that you know what they're doing takes hard work.

Do suggest activities that prohibit smoking so that you won't run into smokers. For instance, go to the movies, a museum, or a smoke-free restaurant.  Avoid bars, casinos and other establishments that allow smoking.

Do clean and detail the car if they smoked in it. Likewise,  clean walls, window coverings and clothing that might retain the smell of cigarette smoke.

Do drop everything and help distract them when their resolve wavers. Go for a walk, take them out to dinner (remember, non-smoking establishments) and reinforce how far they've come and how proud you are of them.

Do realize that quitting smoking takes a lot of focus for a lot longer than you might think. Be patient, stay interested and acknowledge their progress, weeks / months down the road.

The Don'ts of Helping Someone Quit Smoking

Don't compare the ease or difficulty they might be having with cessation  to other ex-smokers you might know.

Every person goes through recovery from nicotine addiction in their own way and in their own time.

Don't let them engage in junkie thinking. Most ex-smokers go through a lot of inner conflict about quitting once they get some distance from smoking. This is a product of healing from addiction, not a measure of their resolve. Reinforce the positives for them.

Don't take the bait and jump into an argument that you know is fueled by the fact that your ex-smoker is grumpy and uncomfortable from nicotine withdrawal.

Don't worry if they hit a bump in the road and have strong cravings to smoke after weeks or even months of smooth sailing. Remind them that triggers to smoke are ingrained from years of associations and that working through each one smoke-free will clear them away. Encourage them to be patient with themselves!

Don't offer them a cigarette or suggest that quitting at another time might be a good idea. Reinforce the progress they've made and remind them that it won't be any easier to quit  the next time and they'll have to go through the early days all over again.

Don't berate them if they have a smoking slip. Tell them how well they've done up to now and that one cigarette doesn't mean failure. Encourage them to throw any cigarettes they have out and to jump back on the wagon.

Don't ever tell them you expect them to relapse, regardless of how many quit attempts they've had. Give them unfailing support always.


Quitting smoking is a process that takes time and patience, especially with oneself. It's not an event that is finished within a week or two, as much as all smokers wish it was!  

Most smokers have spent years associating just about every activity and emotion in their lives with smoking, and as such, it takes time and practice to reprogram the brain to associate non-smoking responses to daily life. 

Do your best to discard any preconceived notions about what you think smoking cessation should be like and just try to be present and available for your ex-smoker. He or she will love you for that and the energy you put into support will make a real and lasting difference.

More reading:  8 Things Not to Say to Someone Who is Quitting Smoking

Continue Reading