Personal Health

Small Steps, Big Results: Helping a Friend or Loved One Quit Smoking

We want our loved ones to be healthy and happy, so when one of them wants to quit smoking, we should support them in every way possible. Kristi Schaible, a certified smoking-cessation facilitator at Mercy Medical Center Redding, has some tips on how to get that conversation going and the best ways to be supportive throughout the quitting process.

"My experiences led me to believe quitting smoking is a process, rather than an event," said Schiable. "If someone other than the smoker wants to start the dialog with a smoker, they begin by planting seeds."

According to Schiable, smokers understand that their behavior is harmful to them and those around them, but there are certain times when this is more obvious than others. Let's say that your friend or loved one keeps leaving an important event, such as a wedding, to have a cigarette. That's a good time to point out that he or she is missing a beautiful moment because of a smoking habit — that's a seed. Later, it may grow into a desire to quit or at least help the person contemplate quitting.

The Four A's

Schiable uses an approach that she calls the four A's: Acknowledge, Address, Assist, Accept. The first two A's, Acknowledge and Address, are meant to help smokers see, in a nonconfrontational way, that smoking affects more than just them. If they realize what they're missing out on and/or that their habit is harmful to those around them, they'll better Acknowledge smoking's ongoing cost and Address the fact that life would be that much better for everyone if they quit smoking. For example, you can Acknowledge that the smoker is missing out on time with kids or Address the fact that kicking the costly habit will allow them to spend money on something they've always wanted.

If the smoker becomes assertive about quitting, then you can provide Assistance and support for them. Assistance for smokers could involve nicotine-replacement therapy, certain medications, support groups, and discussions with the smoker about forming a quitting plan.

"If you want to help smokers," said Schiable, "explore individual habits and rituals they have incorporated into everyday routines. To change, smokers must develop alternative plans for each of the habits, rituals, and routines."

Smoking-cessation programs help kick off the process, as do appointments with health care specialists who can provide appropriate medication and therapy.

No Easy Task

Lastly, Schiable points out that Accepting (the final A) the immense difficulty of giving up the habit, with the help of your gentle encouragement, is critical to success. Equally critical, though, is the smoker's own desire to quit.

"Until the smoker is ready to quit, trying to help someone who is not ready is futile, regardless of how much you want the smoker to be successful in quitting," she said. "Smokers must not just want to quit; they must be willing to make the changes that will be required in order to quit."

Those changes will be different for every person. People will need to find an alternative routine for just after dinner or before going into work for the day, for example. Asking your friend or loved one who wants to quit smoking how you can best support them, and referring them to available resources, will take you both a long way toward achieving the final goal.

Posted in Personal Health

Dr. Sheyna Gifford has been involved in research since 1997, in health care since 2003, in biotechnology since 2005, and in professional science and health communications since 2013. She holds bachelors degrees in neuroscience and English, masters degree in biotechnology and science journalism, and a doctorate in medicine. Sheyna is working on an MBA in healthcare management, and aiming for a career in health policy and health care administration, where excellent communication can lead to better patient outcomes, reduced cost, and better doctor and patient satisfaction.

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*This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute health care advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or physician before making health care decisions.