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Family, Friends Can Play Major Supporting Roles in Helping Smokers Quit

Earlier this week the drugstore chain CVS announced that in addition to ending the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products it was launching a smoking-cessation campaign to include assessment of a smoker's “readiness to quit,” medication support to help curb the desire to use tobacco and coaching to help people stay motivated and avoid relapses.

All that should help would-be non-smokers, says John Spangler, M.D., a professor of family medicine at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and a recognized expert on tobacco use and smoking cessation.

“Quitting smoking is difficult, and for some people it is extremely difficult,” Spangler said. “Nicotine replacements like a patch or gum and other medications can double or triple the chances of successfully quitting, and coaching and counseling are definitely useful, too.”

But the coaches and counselors needn’t be professionals. Spangler says family members, loved ones and friends can be major contributors to smoking-cessation efforts – if they take a supportive approach.

“People who are trying to quit need a cheerleader, not a drill sergeant,” he said. “Patience, not pestering, is the best way to help someone close to you kick the habit.”

Spangler offers the following tips for people trying to offer smoking-cessation support to a family member, loved one or friend:

● Ask the smoker why he or she wants to quit. (The more they’re the ones talking about quitting, the more successful they’ll be.)

● Have the smoker set a specific quit date and help them stick to it.

● Urge the smoker to throw away all cigarettes, ash trays, lighters and anything else closely tied to smoking.

● Help the smoker alter the routines and avoid the places they associate with smoking. Suggest alternatives that will help them keep their mind off their craving.

● Take advantage of resources such as the website smokefree.gov and the smoking-cessation hotline 1-800-QUITNOW.

● Above all, don’t nag, pester, scold or fuss at the person who is trying to quit.

“Somebody who’s trying to give up smoking is likely to be irritable, have problems concentrating and be short-tempered,” Spangler said. “They’re in no mood to hear nagging. Praise and encouragement are the most important ways you can help someone close to you quit tobacco.”

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Last Updated: 11-07-2016
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