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KhiaKarma's avatar

Does expressing concern over my partner's smoking help or hinder his journey to quit?

Asked by KhiaKarma (4275 points ) October 20th, 2012

This is an opinion question. I obviously know that you cannot possibly know how my specific partner will respond to any scenario…. I am looking for answers from your personal experience or what you think you would do in his/my shoes.

Background info:
I got pregnant and had to quit smoking cigarettes. It was surprisingly easy for me, but I had motivation (a healthy baby).

I really thought I would probably smoke a cigarette every now and then after having the baby, but 1 year post-partum and I have not even had one.

If I have a craving, I just delay it and I forget- but I am out of the habit. Plus, the smell is so bad that if my partner has one and he touches something, I can smell the smoke on that item. Yuck! And it really does taste like I am licking an ashtray if I kiss him….

Well, my hubby has not been able to quit as easily. He will quit for stretches of time, but then will resume his habit. The circumstances around him smoking again vary from stressors to being around smokers at his new job (and sometimes there is a benefit to the smoking social circle).

So I am debating whether I should say something about when he smokes or not. I worry about the health risks and I know that if he breaks his abstinence, he gets the nicotine back in his system again….cycle begins again

But does me stating my concerns make it worse? I know no one likes to be harped on… But I also am not used to holding my tongue if I know that it is something dangerous. Lung cancer runs in his grandmother’s side of the family and his great uncle died of lung cancer- and he never smoked!
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So what do you think? How would you feel if you were trying to quit? How would you want your partner to respond?

How would you handle your worry if you were me and you wanted to support your partner with quitting smoking?

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24 Answers

lightsourcetrickster's avatar

I’ve never had a girlfriend who told me to quit. BUT when I was 17, my grandmother – God rest her soul – was sat with me in her living room. She smoked like a train. If it wasn’t 20 a day, it might have been 30 or more. Anyway..she gave me this really disapproving glance, and then told me to give up smoking. I didn’t give up smoking because at that time it was my choice and I was sticking to it.
Since smoking for 15 years is never likely to do anyone any good, I decided to quit in August. I can see where all the fuss comes from when non-smokers kick up a stink about it.
I think it can either help, or hinder. Depends on how the situation is approached and when.
If you want to be rid of the stink in the meantime, maybe you could try to persuade him to get an e-cigarette. No stink, just nicotine in water vapor basically.

hearkat's avatar

It’s a very fine line to express loving concern and disapproval regarding a loved one’s choices without nagging… I have yet to figure it out. I’m hoping someone will have some good advice!

El_Cadejo's avatar

I can tell you from my own personal experience, my fiance cut back on smoking and wanted me to do the same. I was all for trying but I also told her that I’d cut back a bit but had no plans on actually quiting. I can tell you that her “getting on my case” whenever I would light another cigarette got really old really quick. It honestly pissed me off to no end and actually caused some problems between us for a while.

I understood what she was saying was for my health and benefit but it was still extremely annoying. As @hearkat said, its a VERY fine line. Good luck

ninjacolin's avatar

@uberbatman.. what could she have done better to help (or “get” either one is fine) you to quit?

jonsblond's avatar

It won’t help. It will only remind him of the terrible habit he has and make him more stressed. Be adamant about him not smoking in the house or the car. If he wants to ruin his lungs that’s his choice and only he can decide when the right time is for him to quit, but you and your child deserve a clean environment to live in.

I quit smoking 10 years ago. My husband, about 6 years.

Sunny2's avatar

He needs to be reminded that it not only can affect his health, but your health and you child’s. @jonsblond“s idea of making smoking in the house and car off-base is an excellent one. Put a comfortable “smoking” chair in the garage for him. Have him take a walk while smoking. Don’t nag him about quitting. Just make your home and car smoke-free for the sake of the child and you.

augustlan's avatar

As a smoker, believe me… we know. Nothing you can say will make a bit of positive difference, but very well might create bad feelings. The best you can do is control your environment (house, car as others have said). Not your partner.

Bellatrix's avatar

My husband used to smoke when we got together. I didn’t. I told him I didn’t like the habit and I made it clear I didn’t want him to smoke in my home or when I or my children were in his car. About a year later, he gave up. He had a relapse about a year ago. He was stressed. He has since stopped again. He didn’t tell me (but I did find out). He said he felt ashamed and that I would be disappointed in him.

I think you are better being as understanding and non-confrontational as you can be. I was with a group of guys the other day in a formal setting and one guy, during breaks in the program, kept leaving the room to smoke. Just before we wrapped up he left the room telling us he had to get his final cig in before going home because he wife doesn’t know he smokes. So, if you make it very difficult for him to be honest, he will probably just lie.

rooeytoo's avatar

People smoked for a lot of years before the habit was linked to all sorts of health problems. In the years before, some smokers developed the health problems, others didn’t. So, to me smoking is not an automatic death sentence and I think you inhale equally unhealthy air when you walk down a city street.

That said I can’t stand the smell of cigarette smoke on someone’s breath and I don’t like the smell of someone’s smoke. I guess I would make this clear to my partner and hope for the best. In Australia they are now trying to make it illegal to smoke between the flags on public beaches. I think it is ridiculous. On a beach the wind is probably blowing and you would not notice the smoke unless someone blew it directly into your face. I think the entire situation is going a little overboard. I can just see someone robbing a convenience store while the cop is arresting someone for smoking at the beach!

downtide's avatar

I smoked for 25 years and I can tell you that being told by others, even in the most gentle way possible, does nothing except maybe make the smoker resentful. Tobacco is a physical addiction, not a psychological one, and no amount of words will make any difference at all. The smoker himself has to actually want to quit, for his own particular reasons (in my case, it was cost). Only at that point is it useful to start offering support and encouragement.

In the meantime I think you are justified in banning him from smoking in your space: in the house, in the car, around you when you are with him out somewhere. You might even insist that he changes out of smoke-smelly clothes around you (make it inconvenient!).

I had no success with any of the traditional ways of quitting – until I bought myself an e-cigarette. Since I got one of those I’ve never looked back and I’m now 3 and a half months tobacco-free.

Shippy's avatar

As a smoker I do feel you have a right and certain rules that should be followed in your home. Also for the health of your child. Tell him to smoke outside. Or rule out smoking near the child. I know how you feel I gave up for a period of a year and it stank. Even washing clothes didn’t get the small off fabrics. You could also add is it baking soda to your wash (Sorry gone blank on the name of the stuff!!).

Also any smoker knows kissing is out, until the mouth is cleaned. Or at least washed with a mouthwash and gum.

All this could drive him to stop!! Even as a smoker I am on your side! We are a stinky bunch and boy you can get ‘filthy’ smokers and clean smokers. People that enter my home say it smells like a none smoker lives here.

bookish1's avatar

Yeah, I agree with @augustlan, smokers know. For me it’s a psychological as well as physical addiction—unless I bust through days or possibly weeks of brain-rattling withdrawal, I can’t get my work done without smoking. I’ve had previous partners hassle me about smoking, or try to control when I can and can’t smoke, and that was pretty maddening. I don’t hassle partners if they choose to eat red meat 3 times a day, so I expect the same treatment of my own unfortunate vice…

Buttonstc's avatar

I am and have always been a non smoker because i had to endure growing up with two chain smoking parents

For quite a while I was dating someone who was a smoker but the rules were clear. No smoking around me. Period.

I never pressured him to quit but after awhile, as winter progressed, he was finding it increasingly inconvenient to have to leave in the middle of a program we were watching to go out in a cold alleyway to indulge his nicotine craving.

When he started talking about possibly quitting I encouraged him but without pressure.

I did do some research and discovered some interesting facts. They’ve done all kinds of research studies on people quitting and those who used a physical aid (such as the patch, nicotine gum, etc.) had a higher long term success rate than those who just went cold turkey.

But the highest percentage rate of success was in the group who combined another technique in addition to the physical aid. This included things like regular support group, hypnotism, biofeedback training etc.

Using both a mind technique as well as a physical aid gave them the best shot at successfully quitting longterm.

I told him about these research results but left it up to him which to pick. A few weeks later he went to his doctor and got the patch and it helped him significantly.

If your nubby indicates any desire to try quitting, you can do your own research for resources in your area and give him a list with phone numbers.

This is different from plain nagging or quoting all the info about how detrimental it is to health. He already knows that.

But giving him practical resources in your area is different because you’re offering concrete solutions. Then leave the choice up to him. You might be pleasantly surprised.

And do keep in mind that quitting is much harder for some people than others. Just because it was relatively easy for you means nothing when it comes to him. Everybody is physiologically different.

And the bottom line is that you cannot control another autonomous adult. All you can do is control what you an your child are exposed to. But the decision to quit has to come from within him. No amount of pressure from you will do it.

Encouragement, yes. Pressure , no. It will backfire and breed resentment as others have mentioned.

Good luck. I know that I could never live with or be married to a smoker.

El_Cadejo's avatar

@ninjacolin honestly nothing, I had to want to quit myself, nothing she really could say would change that. But bringing it up almost every time I lit a cigarette was WAYYYY to much. Every now and then fine but don’t nag me, I’m well aware what I’m doing to my body, I don’t need to be told all day long.

though it appears many people have said essentially that already.

KhiaKarma's avatar

Thanks everyone! My husband asked me what I was doing when I typed the question last night and we discussed the situation. I am going to back off (he has to come around on his own terms-if he does indeed choose to quit), but he was sweet and said that he knows I am just speaking out of concern and that as his “better half” I have inspired him in many ways to become a better person. I appreciate your stories of your personal journeys on both sides.

He does not smoke in the house or in the car that I drive and the car seat is in- neither of us have ever been inside the house smokers.

and just as a side note, I am amazed when people say that they smoke and their partners don’t know….I always know. (sometimes I just don’t say anything) As an ex-smoker, I am super sensitive to the smell.

Bellatrix's avatar

The man tells his wife he was around a smoker and the smell has got into his clothes. If she has never known him to smoke, why would she think he is lying? I would also say we want to believe those we love. So even when there are clues something is not right, should she insist he is lying even if she has no real proof just a suspicion? Glad you have had a good conversation with your husband. Giving up smoking is hard. He will have more chance of success with your positive support.

wundayatta's avatar

No one likes to be nagged. I’m overweight. When I buy clothes, it is abundantly clear how bad I look. I have high blood pressure. I have sleep problems. High cholesterol. I know I should cut back. I’m trying to eat less. Every time people mention my weight, it annoys me, but it doesn’t make it any easier to lose weight. I have already chosen to lose weight. I’m just not very good at it.

I imagine being constantly nagged to stop smoking would not help, either. People would just feel shame, and manbe get angry about it. They know how awful it smells. They know what it does to their health. But kicking nicotine is the hardest addiction there is to kick.

My feeling is to try to be supportive when someone tries to stop. Let them know you think they are doing a good thing, but don’t go overboard on it. You’re glad to see them trying. You’ll help any way you can. And that’s, that.

ninjacolin's avatar

Just thinking about it out loud here:

Smoking has sentimental value to smokers. It doesn’t have any other value.

It’s hard to get people to quit something they have a good time doing with themselves as a personal, nostalgic tradition. Especially when there’s an immediate physical/chemical payoff (nicotine) for doing so.

Giving up smoking, means giving up doing something enjoyable for what feels like no immediate benefit besides an end to nagging from your peers.

I sympathize because I’ve always hated doing anything for myself that would make others say: “Good for you!” ugh.. so patronizing.

El_Cadejo's avatar

When people nag me about quitting it just makes me want a cigarette cause they’re pissing me off lol :P

lightsourcetrickster's avatar

@ninjacolin Please could you elaborate on – or make clearer to me (take yer pick) – what with being an ex-smoker you’d think I’d know already but I don’t – what you mean by “smoking has sentimental value to smokers”?

ninjacolin's avatar

Sorry, it’s just what I’ve learned about smokers over the years, my perspective, that’s all.. I was suggesting that smoking has no health benefits and that smokers know that. For example, smokers don’t smoke to.. improve their bloodflow, extend their live spans, gain xray vision, or anything like that.

But they do smoke because they like playing with the smoke in their mouths, they remember all those great times they had in the smoker’s corner outside the pub or smoking with friends here or there.. or maybe memories of hiding their smoking from parents, getting away with it, quiet rebellion.. or maybe they remember their loving mothers or fathers or perhaps some other positive influences in their lives who smoked and who they admired. Or if they’re a heavy smoker for years, you can imagine that they’ve gone their whole lives doing every important activity they can remember with a smoke in hand or burning quietly beside them. They form a lot of memories with smoking around. And regardless of the far-off health risks, even regarldess of the harsh flavor.. these memories aren’t inherently unpleasant to bask in.

So, that’s what I mean by sentimental value. As an activity. Like going golfing, cracking your knuckles, or the smell of bbq.. a great many vegetarian-sympathetics have the same feeling towards stopping eating meat. They might believe in the far-off health benefits, sure, but the immediate memories and nostalgia make it hard to decide against continuing to do what you’ve enjoyed for so long.

rooeytoo's avatar

I still cannot figure out why smoking has become so anathema but drinking is still acceptable. I have never seen anyone smoke a pack of cigarettes, get in their car and kill innocents or abuse their spouse and kids or start a fight. Drinking to excess causes as much damage to society as smoking, sometimes as immediate, sometimes more long term. Not everyone who drinks becomes an obnoxious drunk, but not everyone who smokes dies from it. I would much rather be in the company of a smoker than a drunk.

But I digress, I agree with the suggestion above that a group is a big help. When I stopped almost 20 years ago I took a course offered by the American Lung Association. It cost $75 but over the years has saved me 100 times that. The support is excellent plus there is the added incentive of not wanting to be the one who couldn’t do it or who let the group down.

KhiaKarma's avatar

I agree- If drinking were the problem, I would definitely prioritize the drinking over the smoking…. But in this situation, that is not the case. I also wonder why so much effort is put into enforcing marijuana laws when drinking is far more dangerous.

El_Cadejo's avatar

@KhiaKarma what you dont remember all the stories of overdoses, addictions, and car accidents related to marijuana <rolls eyes>

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