According to the New York State Smokers’ Quitline, if you are concerned about a smoker you know, there are certain things you should understand. First, understand the addiction. For some users, the nicotine addiction is so powerful that it can seem almost impossible to quit. Even a few hours without nicotine can be painfully difficult and make it hard for a smoker to cope with routine situations and behave normally. Acting as both a stimulant and depressant for most people, nicotine does offer benefits to the smoker. Second, understand that quitting is a five stage process, and that you, as a support, have a role in each stage. (The following also applies to smokeless tobacco users.)
In stage one, the smoker is not thinking about quitting. Your role is to support and care for him whether he smokes or not. In stage two, the smoker is thinking about quitting, but is not ready to quit. Your role is to offer information about where to get help, but let the smoker decided when to quit. The smoker is getting ready to quit in stage three, at which time you can offer to give something up as a sign of support. Praise your friend for trying when he is quitting in stage four, and show him that you admire his determination when he has quit in stage five. Understand that your friend may shift back and forth between stages before quitting for good, and realize that, in addition to breaking the physical addiction, quitting tobacco requires lifestyle changes and altering daily routines. Your role is to encourage your friend to develop a plan for how to live without cigarettes by helping him identify what makes him want to smoke, and plan ahead for those situations. Third, understand how you can help by asking your friend what would be the most helpful thing for you to do. Listening, expressing health concerns, reminding him of the reasons for quitting, helping to research methods of quitting, and being sympathetic to physical and emotional withdrawal symptoms are a few of the positive supports you can offer. Lecturing, giving ultimatums, making him feel guilty for not quitting, complaining, smoking around your friend, or encouraging him to smoke again are not supportive behaviors. With this in mind, ask yourself if you are a source of positive support, or if you are causing more stress for the person you are attempting to help. If you truly want to help, remember to be sensitive and understand that your role is to support your friend, not force him to quit.
For more suggestions, contact your local resource at Allegany Council, 585-593-1920, ext. 713, or call the New York State Smokers’ Quitline at 1-866-NY-QUITS (1-866-697-8487).