Helping a friend to quit smoking will not only help make them healthier and likely live longer, but will help make our LGBT communities stronger and smoke free.
If your friend, co-worker, family member or other community member has taken an important step towards quitting smoking, you can help them reach their goals by supporting them in their attempt.
You can’t do it for them – but you can support them!
- It is a big decision to try and quit smoking. It is important to remember that the decision needs to be made by the smoker for their own reasons.
- It is not helpful to pressure, nag or tease.
- But, there is a lot that you can do to help your friend to be a successful quitter once they have decided to quit.
How can you help your friend?
- Being exposed to second-hand smoke can be a huge trigger for those trying to quit. Make your home and car smoke-free. Ensure that no one smokes inside your car and your home. This will not only protect you and your loved ones from exposure to second-hand smoke, but could also help your friend quit by being in a smoke-free environment.
- Listen to your friend. Don’t lecture them about why they should quit or how they should be doing it. Your friend may be irritable when they are quitting — this can be a normal part of the withdrawal process. Remember that you are doing a great job in remaining calm and not taking the comments personally. Negative mood swings will pass and your friend will thank you in the end.
- Be patient. Quitting smoking is a process, not an event. It takes time to quit, and your friend may struggle with some withdrawal symptoms during the process. Be aware that they may be dealing with these symptoms, and that they will need time and support to get through them.
- Help your friend avoid the things that make them want to smoke. For example, if they always go for a smoke on breaks at work, suggest that you go for a walk together instead; or, if they smoke when they are stressed, remind them they can call you to vent rather than have a cigarette.
- Encourage your friend – sometimes saying something as simple as “You’re doing great” or “I’m proud of you” can motivate someone to keep going.
- Reward your friend along the road to a smoke-free life. Rewards can be simple and help motivate your friend to stay the course through the challenges of quitting. Choose the rewards to suit your friend and the steps along the way. It could be a card, flowers or an email saying that they are doing a great job. Celebrate the small steps to success such as staying quit for a day, a week, or managing to get through a stressful situation without smoking.
What happens if your friend slips?
- Be supportive. A smoker may have a slip and smoke a cigarette. It doesn’t mean that the quit attempt is a complete failure. They can start quitting again right away.
- Don’t criticize or lecture them as that will only add to their stress. You can help by identifying the things that made them smoke and think of things to help deal with that situation the next time.
- Your friend may feel discouraged. Remind them that quitting is a process and each time people will learn something new to help them with their next quit attempt. It usually takes people several attempts before they quit for good.
You’re in this together…
- If you are a smoker, you may consider quitting together. If you decide that you do not want to quit, you can avoid smoking when you are around your friend.
- Think of things that you can do together that you both enjoy and don’t involve smoking. Examples are: Going to a movie; Going to a club; Going for a walk or run; Taking up a recreational sport or other new hobby, attending an LGBT community event.
Remember, this individual is your friend regardless of whether they smoke or not. Remind them that you value them as a person, smoker or not. If they quit, celebrate their success with them. If they didn’t quit, celebrate the steps they took, and remind them that you’ll be there to support them when they decide to try again.
Taking the step to quit is admirable. Helping someone to quit is the sign of true friendship.