How to Help Someone Quit Smoking

If you want to help someone quit smoking, then you probably have some questions about how to go about it. This guide will help you understand the quitting process and how you can assist, and hopefully it will answer most of your questions about how you can help someone quit their addictive habit.

woman quiting smoking

If somebody you love and care about smokes, it’s only natural to want to convince them to try to quit. But going about it the wrong way will not only be ineffective but can create animosity between you and can even be a major setback for the smoker’s desire and ability to quit.

While many people try to quit and fail, it is certainly possible for someone to successfully quit. But it is not an easy process, and if they are going to succeed, they will likely need support from their friends and family. People who care about them and who are close to them will be able to have the most persuasion on their quitting, but the key factor to remember is to stay in contact with them while they are trying to quit.

The principles below can be applied to any type of nicotine addiction, including when someone you love is using electronic cigarettes with nicotine-infused vape juices or e-liquids.

How Can I Help Someone Quit?

Cigarette smoking comes with both physical and emotional addictions. So quitting is rarely easy, but it can be made easier if the person trying to quit has some help. You can really support them by keeping them away from cigarettes. Many people go to some sort of retreat or remote location to get away from cigarettes. This makes it very difficult for them to buy cigarettes and keeps them away from influences that remind them of smoking, which the best vapes can sometimes do, precisely because they are so similar to smoking.

This can help with the physical urges, but the emotional ones may be harder to control. If your friend slips back into smoking briefly, then you still need to encourage and not berate. Don’t call out the slip-ups, but provide support. If you make your friend upset about their progress and depressed, then it will make it harder for them to resist their emotional urges for cigarettes.

It is very important to keep up a rapport with the person trying to quit in their initial stages. Make sure you are available for them to talk to and that they know you are willing to help. They will be suffering withdrawal symptoms, and it can help them to have someone to tell about what they are experiencing. Be sure to stay supportive and try not to preach to them or scold them, even when they fall back on smoking again. Instead, offer encouragement and tell them how proud you are of their willingness to quit and what they have accomplished so far.

I Quit Before. Will It Be Just Like That for My Friend?

Addiction affects everybody differently. Just because your quitting was easy or difficult does not mean it will be the same for your friend. The chemical makeup of a person can determine how their nicotine addiction will make them feel once they start to suffer withdrawal symptoms.

But their symptoms are also affected by how heavy of a smoker they were. If they smoked a pack a day for years, they are going to have a lot more separation anxiety and hard-to-control urges than someone who was a casual smoker or who just started.

You should be aware of this and not try to downplay their struggle just because you had a very little struggle. It can be difficult to tell exactly what someone is going through when they withdraw, and they may be very good at hiding what they are experiencing. The key is to stay supportive and just provide any help they need.

What Can Help

Tell Them You’d Like Them to Quit

Approximately 75% of all smokers in the U.S. claim they would like to quit, so, chances are, your loved one has already considered quitting. The first step in inspiring someone to quit is simply, calmly talking to them about quitting. Ask them if they want or wanted to quit, tell them that you are concerned about them and explain why you’d like them to quit.

Chances are, the smoker already knows how bad cigarettes can be. If not, you can help to educate him by providing appropriate information, books and materials, and pointing out useful websites.

Remember that nagging them will only make them feel bad about themselves and won’t do much towards motivating them to quit. Don’t put too much pressure on them; it doesn’t have to happen right away. After this conversation, give them a couple of days to process the information.

Ask Why They Would Want to Quit

Different people are motivated by different things. Different smokers can have very different reasons for quitting. Some quit smoking for their health, while others may do it for their finances, someone they care about or because they want to look and smell better. Ask them how they think they could benefit from quitting.

You may want to suggest some additional reasons for quitting that you think might be particularly important to them. Ask them what they would need to feel ready to smoke their last cigarette. Encourage them to make a list of their reasons for quitting. This list will be very helpful if they do decide to quit, but it can also be useful to motivate them to cut back or stop smoking at home.

Understand Why It’s Hard for Them

Many smokers don’t want to quit because they’re afraid of withdrawal, or that quitting will make them gain weight. Perhaps they don’t want their irritability to be a burden on people around them. Maybe it’s because they’ve tried and failed in the past, and they don’t believe they can do it. Ask them what’s keeping them from quitting. Perhaps you can even address some of those fears, but what’s most important is that you listen to them and try to understand them.

Reassure Them That You Will Support Them No Matter What

Quitting is a very stressful experience, and the more stressed-out a smoker is, the harder it will be for him to quit. They need to understand that you care about them regardless of whether they decide to quit or not. You must be ready to accept whatever choice they’re going to make.

If They Decide Not To Quit, Give Them Space

Deciding to quit smoking is not an easy choice to make for an addict. If they decide against it, accept their choice. It’s their life and their decision to make. Constantly pressuring them to quit would be unfair, and ultimatums or forcing a quit date on them will only help drive them away.

Quitting requires willpower that must come from within, so there’s no use in trying to control them to do it. Try to remember why quitting is difficult for them. Perhaps this wasn’t the right time to do it. Give them a couple of weeks or even months before you approach the subject again, but don’t give up on trying to help them.

If They Do Decide To Quit, Offer Help

If they do decide to quit, congratulate them on taking the first and perhaps most important step toward breaking their addiction. If you’ve never smoked, it may be hard for you to understand what they’re going through. Remember that quitting smoking is a big deal, and show them that you’re proud of them.

Help to educate them on the different methods available for quitting, and help them choose one that will work best for them. If you need additional information, refer to our Quit Smoking for Good guide. Now that you’ve inspired your loved one to decide to quit smoking, learn how to help them succeed by visiting Support Your Quitter.

Do’s and Don’ts When Helping Someone to Quit


  1. Do believe they can succeed and assure them of that.
  2. Do what you can to for them. See if they’d like you to check up on them along the way.
  3. Do ask them how they’re feeling instead of just focusing on whether or not they have had a cigarette.
  4. Do encourage them to talk to you whenever they need help or support.
  5. Do reward their progress and celebrate success and milestones along the way.
  6. Do supply the quitter with anything that can take their mind off of the craving such as chewing gum, carrots or toothpicks to chew on.
  7. Do remove all ashtrays, lighters and other smoking paraphernalia from your home and make your home smoke free.
  8. Do stay patient and empathetic. Try to understand what the quitter is going through.
  9. Do listen to what they have to say.
  10. Do offer distractions to keep their mind off cigarettes. Designate time for fun activities as rewards of their progress.


  1. Don’t discourage them. No matter how hard it gets never tell them that they were easier to deal with when they smoked.
  2. Don’t be judgmental, nag, shout or lecture. The worse you make them feel the more likely they are to lose control of the addiction.
  3. Don’t constantly ask them if they’ve smoked today.
  4. Don’t get mad at them when they’re experiencing irritability or anxiety. Remember, those are only temporary side effects. Appreciate that they are difficult to cope with and assure the quitter that they will pass.
  5. Don’t be surprised if their appetite increases during withdrawal. Try to make sure you have healthy snacks in case they get hungry.
  6. Don’t suggest that going back to smoking would be easier for them.
  7. Don’t ever offer the quitter a puff or a cigarette. The goal is to stop smoking altogether.
  8. Don’t let them forget why they’ve decided to quit.

How Long Will It Take Them to Quit?

The time it takes to fully quit and not feel the urges anymore will depend on a number of factors. The biggest one is how long and how heavily the person smoked. The longer you smoke for, the more that nicotine will stay in your system. If your friend smoked for years, it could be nearly as long before the urges are completely gone.

For most people, however, the worst urges will subside after a few weeks. After about three months, all the nicotine should have left their body, and they should not experience any serious cravings.

But being near cigarette smoke can trigger minor relapses, and it may make them have trouble staying away from smoking themselves. You will have to gauge your friend and see how they take the initial weeks before you have an idea of how they will fare in the following months.

It is important to stay in contact with them and offer encouragement, no matter how they are faring with their smoking. Be sure to stay positive and offer support, as criticism can make them want to go back to the comfort of smoking.

How Do I Continue to Provide Support?

In the following weeks, months and years, it is vital that you continue to support your friend. You can help by celebrating milestones and offering to do something special for them once they reach a new one. Make a big deal of even the smallest milestones, and you can celebrate each month they don’t smoke.

Remember that this is an addiction that will continue to affect them for a long time to come. While the worst of it will have passed in the first few weeks, they may let their guard down after a while. That’s when the cravings may rear up long enough to cause them to slip back once more. Be sure to stay in contact with your friend and find out how they are doing with quitting. Do your best to keep them away from other people who smoke and places where cigarettes are easily available.

If they do slip up and start smoking again, try to persuade them to give it up once more. Remind them about all the benefits of quitting and how much better they felt when they did quit. Remind them what their future holds if they continue to quit and the positive ways they can affect their life and their health by giving it up.

Quitting is usually not an easy or short process, but it can be done, and your support can help your friends overcome their addiction. 

Published: April 16, 2018 Updated: April 5, 2019


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