Helping Someone to Quit Smoking

If you have not smoked before, it is easy to assume that quitting is just a matter of determination and willpower alone, such as throwing away your cigarettes and quitting. It is not true. The fact is, many smokers make several attempts to quit b​efore they manage to break free of the habit permanently. Quitting smoking is not easy – anyone making the attempt needs as much help and support as possible. That's where you come in.

Ex–smokers have often indicated that help from a friend or relative was crucial to their eventual success in quitting. You can definitely make a difference to the smoker in your life. Just like how everyone is different, each person's approach to quitting is different. Below is a general step–by–step guide to help you. If you require more advice, feel free to call our friendly counsellors at QuitLine 1800 438 2000 or visit I Quit for free advice and tips.

Related: Environmental Tobacco Smoke

Step 1: Use the correct tone

  • Based on your knowledge of the smoker, use the tone that would best appeal to his/her personality.​
  • Do avoid nagging, scolding, threatening or preaching — these do not work!
  • It will immediately place the smoker in a defensive position where he/she will not be receptive to any suggestions from you.
  • Instead offer non–judgemental support and encouragement.

Step 2: Select a comfortable time to bring up the topic

  • Bring up the subject at a right time.
  • Here is where your knowledge of the smoker would come in useful.
  • Broach the subject when you know the smoker is most relaxed and comfortable.
  • Avoid talking about quitting when the smoker is feeling stressed or tired or when he/she is in a hurry. This might backfire.

Step 3: Gauge the smoker's attitude towards smoking and offer help according to the attitude

One good way is to ask him/her if he/she has thought about quitting before and plan your next move according to his/her response.

If the response is:

"No. I've never thought about quitting."

He/she most likely has not thought about quitting and is satisfied with the current status.

To help, you can:

  • Let the smoker know that the decision to quit is his/hers and you are not judging him/her.
  • Show the smoker that you respect and understand his/her point of view.
  • This can be done by asking the smoker what he likes and dislikes about smoking.

*Remember Step 1! You must be non-judgemental!*

You can use this information to gauge his/her perception of smoking and work towards changing that.

If you need help, you can call QuitLine 1800 438 2000.

  • Assure the smoker that you would be there for him/her whenever he/she decides to quit.
  • Highlight the benefits of quitting smoking and show care and concern for his/her health.
  • Gather print information about the harmful effects of smoking and benefits of quitting and place them where the smoker can see/read them.
  • If smoking is affecting you personally, gently let the smoker know the effect it has on you and that you are willing to help if he/she decides to quit.

"I have thought about quitting, but I have not set a Quit Date."

He/she is moving towards quitting smoking. However, he/she seems to still have some reservations about making the final commitment to quit and is still undecided.

This could be due to insufficient knowledge or lack of confidence in his/her ability to quit successfully.

To help, you can:

  • Let him/her know that you care and is happy that he/she has thought about quitting.
  • Ask the smoker what he/she likes and dislikes about smoking.

*Remember Step 1! You must be non-judgemental!*

Use this information and try to influence him/her such that over time his/her dislikes would outweigh the likes.

If you need help, you can call QuitLine 1800 438 2000.

Find out what could be preventing him/her from making the commitment and help him/her to remove that barrier.

If it is lack of confidence:

  • Raise his/her morale by bringing up his accomplishments and drawing parallels.
  • Let the smoker know that you believe in him/her ability and will always be there to support him/her.
  • It is common for smokers to attempt 6 to 7 times before they successfully quit.

If it is fear of withdrawal symptoms:

  • Let the smoker know that you will be there for him/her throughout his quit journey.
  • You can also tell him/her about Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) — designed to help reduce the withdrawal symptoms. Although it is not for everyone, they should seek advice from their family doctor or a pharmacist.
  • However, NRT will only work if the smoker is sincere in the quit attempt.

Encourage the smoker to choose a quit date.

However, do not pressure him/her (refer to Step 1).

  • Be available to lend a listening ear and give constant encouragement.
  • Gather resources and quit tips for him/her, which will come in handy once he/she has set a quit date.

Related: Benefits of Quitting

"I think I am ready to quit!"

To help, you can:

  • Choose a date to start the quit process together with the smoker.
  • That date will be the Quit Date.
  • It may be a meaningful date in your relationship e.g. wedding anniversary or birthday etc.
  • You might want to avoid stressful periods where the smoker may have to cope with many things (in work or in life).
  • Select a Quit Method together with the smoker.
  • There are numerous methods to quit and the smoker should select the method that is most comfortable to him/her.
  • Identify reasons and situations when he/she smokes. For example, after a meal, walking home or reading the newspaper. Work together to come up with coping strategies in these situations.
  • ​Coping methods can include:
    1. Planning activities for both of you to do together to distract the smoker from smoking.
    2. Going to places and doing things where smoking does not fit in — swimming, jogging, brisk walking or shopping.
  • Be supportive of the changes he/she may make to his/her lifestyle.
  • He/she may become more easily irritable during this period so try to be understanding and supportive.
    1. Help him/her throw away all tobacco–related products.
    2. Encourage the smoker to talk about his/her feelings and then listen to what he/she says. Give your full attention.
    3. Encourage him/her to call QuitLine 1800 438 2000 for personalised help to quit smoking.
    4. Encourage him/her to sign up for the I Quit Programme

"I am quitting now."

To help, you can:

  • Be supportive and understanding.
    1. As many smokers experience withdrawal symptoms during the first few weeks after they quit and may become easily irritable.
    2. Constantly remind him/her that the withdrawal symptoms will soon pass and be tolerant.
    3. If necessary, encourage him/her to see a doctor or pharmacist for quit smoking aids.
  • Prepare low–calorie healthy snacks for the smoker to munch on in place of smoking cigarettes.
  • Plan activities for both of you to do together to avoid temptations to smoke.
  • Offer to do things together where smoking does not fit in — swimming, jogging, brisk walking or shopping.
  • Introduce relaxation techniques as new ways to cope with stress.
  • Attend a quit smoking clinic together. Face–to–face quit consultations will significantly increase his/her chance of staying smoke–free for good.
  • Encourage him/her to call QuitLine 1800 438 2000 for personalised encouragement.
  • Encourage him/her to sign up for the I Quit Programme
  • Celebrate together each week or month he/she has stayed smoke–free!

"I have already quit, but sometimes I will still feel the urge to smoke."

To help, you can:

  • Remind him/her of his/her reasons for stopping smoking.
  • Encourage him/her to be strong and raise his/her morale by recounting the hurdles he/she has passed to get to this stage.
  • Remember, just one cigarette will get the ex-smoker hooked again!
  • Take this opportunity to start doing new activities together such as rollerblading, jogging or cooking.
  • Get the ex-smoker to share his/her success story with other smokers who want to quit as well. This helps enhance the ex–smoker's pride for having quit smoking.
  • Prepare healthy and tasty meals at home and make healthy snacks easily available.
  • Encourage him/her to call QuitLine 1800 438 2000 if they need personalised encouragement to stay smoke–free.
  • Continue to celebrate together each month that he/she has stayed smoke–free!

Resources for Quitting Smoking

Join the I Quit Programme and remain smoke free for 28 days and you are 5 times more likely to quit smoking. You can nominate your loved ones as a supporter when you sign up for the programme. Validate your smoke-free status and redeem a HPB eVoucher* worth $50 at the 28th day milestone. Keep going and you'll also receive eVouchers* worth $30 and $20 at the 3rd month and 6th month milestone respectively!

*Terms and conditions apply. 

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