Smoking is a significant contributor to many serious diseases, like heart disease, stroke, and cancer. Secondhand smoke also causes health problems for the people around us. Even thirdhand smoke—the chemical residue left on indoor surfaces after someone smoked there—can trigger asthma attacks and other potentially serious reactions.
Our risk for developing diseases and health conditions rises as we age. Smokers are at even greater risk of disease. According to a fact sheet compiled by Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, the leading hospital for cancer care in NJ, most lung cancers are linked to smoking, and are preventable.
If you have a loved one who smokes and is having difficulty quitting, here’s how you can help them:
Acknowledge that it’s hard.
Quitting smoking is not just ending a bad habit. It’s breaking a serious, entrenched addiction. The best thing you can do for your spouse, child, or other loved one who is struggling with quitting is to acknowledge how hard it is. Most people can’t do it on their own; your relative needs your support.
Create a smoke-free environment
Work with your loved one to remove anything smoking-related from his or her surroundings. Get rid of ashtrays, matches, lighters, and spare cigarettes. Put out air fresheners to cover the smoke smell that may trigger the desire to smoke. Don’t allow visitors or other household members to smoke anywhere near the house. In addition, encourage your loved one to avoid places where he or she might be more likely to smoke.
Prepare for Withdrawal
Nicotine withdrawal, the body’s reaction to stopping smoking, is uncomfortable and may make your loved one grumpy or irritable. Depression, anxiety, and headaches are also common with nicotine withdrawal. It usually takes two weeks for the symptoms to subside fully. Help your loved one get through withdrawal by preparing beforehand. Find activities he or she enjoys to serve as a diversion during that time.
You may also suggest using FDA-approved nicotine replacement therapies, such as skin patches or gum, which offers relief from withdrawal symptoms. Most importantly, don’t take your loved one’s irritable behavior personally. It’s not you—it’s the withdrawal.
Don’t overreact if they smoke once or twice
Most people can’t stop smoking cold turkey. While working hard to quit smoking, it’s fairly common for to give in to an overwhelming urge now and then. A temporary lapse does not mean they’ve quit on quitting. If you find your loved one stealing a puff, empathize with him or her, and then let it go.
Consider joining a Quit Smoking program
Programs such as Robert Wood Johnson’s Tobacco Quitcenter can provide treatment, therapies, and support for aspiring non-smokers. These programs help people understand why they smoke, teach coping skills, and treat withdrawal symptoms. If your loved one is struggling alone, you may want to suggest they find a smoking cessation program near them.
Helping your loved one kick their smoking addiction is hard work that can take months or years of dedication. Remember to keep a positive attitude and empathetic outlook to support your loved one achieve a happier and healthier life.