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juniper's avatar

How can I encourage a loved one to quit smoking?

Asked by juniper (1904points) December 11th, 2008

My boyfriend smokes, and I worry about his health. I love him; it’s very hard for me remain quiet about this. How can I help without frustrating him? Is it even my place to intervene, here?

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14 Answers

augustlan's avatar

If he wants to quit, be supportive and understanding when he turns into a raving lunatic for a while. If he doesn’t, there is no way that you will not frustrate and annoy him. He is an adult (I assume), and has not been living in a cave (again, assuming) so he clearly knows it’s not healthy. Nothing you can do or say will have much of an impact, unless he’s already on the same page.

Jeruba's avatar

I totally agree with Augustlan on all points.

After 22 years, I quit smoking, cold turkey. That was 19 years ago. I never want to go through that again. Just in case I wouldn’t remember what it was like (but I do), I kept an hour-by-hour and minute-by-minute journal of counting down through my last pack while doing inner battle and my first three days of white-knuckle restraint. Anytime I might ever have been tempted to start again, I knew that rereading those pages would be enough of a deterrent.

I enjoyed smoking and would still pay $100 if I could have a cigarette and not have to start again. (Well, make it two…) I just didn’t and don’t want to be a smoker.

My husband still hasn’t quit. All I ever said to him was (just once) “I love you and want you to be here with me, and healthy, for as long as possible.” He had his lung cancer surgery 3 years ago.

susanc's avatar

(I’ve given this advice before on here:)
Beat feet to an AlAnon meeting or office and make them give you a little flyer on “Detachment with Love”. It’s very, very helpful on this issue. (You don’t have to stay for the meeting.) This little flyer says what augustlan says except in more pointed language. It will help you. It will not get him to quit smoking. He has to get that right flyer himself!

Jack79's avatar

I smoked for 15 years and quit 4 years ago. Let me rephrase that: I smoked LIKE A CHIMNEY for 15 years and quit 4 years ago. Almost 5, and can’t stand it anymore. And I used to love to smoke, I loved the smell of fresh tobacco (I did roll-ups) and the taste, and everything. I could not imagine my life without cigarettes. Even though I am a space freak, I accepted that I would never go to the moon even if they made colonies there, because they’d have a no-smoking policy. When they banned smoking on planes, I just stopped travelling. And I loved travelling. Or I would drive 2000km rather than take the plane, just so that I could smoke. I’m just saying all this to make you all understand how easy it can be, no matter how hard it looks.
So how did it happen? A series of events led to it. Above all, don’t patronise your loved one!
1. A cousin of mine who smoked even more than I did told me he’d quit. He’s the sort of guy that would get up in the middle of the night for a cigarette because his body could not stay nicotine-free for more than an hour at a time. He used to smoke over 100 a day.
2. About a year later, my father gave me a book. I am sorry, I don’t remember the author, it might be Carr. Alan Carr? Something like that. One of those books of the “How to quit…” persuasion. He didn’t tell me I had to quit, but he promised he’d give me $3000 if I simply read it. Ok, so my dad is rich. And I was poor enough to need the money. But you could offer some other reward. The book is really good. And it’s good exactly because it doesn’t tell you to quit smoking. On the first page it says something like “now light a cigarette and start reading”. It is very smooth and takes you through the process of being a smoker to being a non-smoker. And this is the vital thing to understand. We are all born non-smokers. And at some point in our lives we happen to have a few fags. And before you know it we have transformed into smokers. Now the whole point is to get into a mindset where you are not “a smoker who has quit” (and therefore is lacking the cigarette) but “a non-smoker who just happened to have a cigarette” (and however many you have, as soon as you extinguish them you go back to being a non-smoker not smoking, a state that you can extend). This way, when I did decide to quit, it was simply a matter of making the “irregularity” of smoking more and more rare, rather than a round-the-clock torture of a smoker choking because he desperately needs a cigarette.
3) my wife thought she was pregnant and told me that it would be a shame for our child to become an orphan to cancer. I had already imposed a non-smoking policy in my home before she moved in (I went out to the balcony even when I lived alone), and after she said that I tried to at least reduce the cigarettes. Having already almost read the book, I was in the right frame of mind to make that final leap. The mental leap I mean. So I decided I would smoke as many cigarettes as I wanted, but only when I really really wanted to, and not while driving, sitting on a computer, reading, drinking tea etc. I would go out to the balcony and Smoke A Cigarette. The next day I dropped from my usual 34 to 10. And a couple of days later to 4. The following week it became 1, right after work, and a couple of times I even forgot it. By the end of the month I didn’t even suffer withdrawal syndromes anymore.
4) my wife was very supportive in all of this (whatever else I may say about her, I will always be grateful for that bit), and she also quit (something which for her was easier since she just had the occasional fag on a Fiday night and was not an addict like myself).

Sorry this ended up longer than I expected, but I thought it might be helpful.

basp's avatar

There is nothing you can say or do to make him quit smoking.
It will happen only if he wants it to happen.

Judi's avatar

Hopefully you have set some boundries in your life about where you allow smoking, and hopefully he is courteous to YOU about where he smokes.
As a person who quit after smoking 20 years I can tell you that he probably doesn’t like it either. Nagging doesn’t work it only makes things worse. As much as you want to help him, this is one thing he has to do on his own. When he’s ready, be brepared to deal with the withdrawl symptoms and convey your pride in his success. It has to happen in HIS time.

tonedef's avatar

I’ve been trying to encourage my partner to quit, also. I’ve gotten tons of free patches and gum, I’ve gotten him a spot in my work’s stop smoking program, I’ve bought him books. I don’t nag him about it. I’m just making sure that he doesn’t have any excuse not to quit, as I’ve given him many opportunities.

But he won’t until he wants to, really. I hate that.

chelseababyy's avatar

@Augustlan WELL PUT! Exactly. There’s no way a smoker will quit if they don’t want to. It’s just the way it is.

wundayatta's avatar

I checked into this, not because I had any advice, but because I was curious to see if anyone else had useful advice.

I like that book idea. I like the advice that you can’t get anyone else to quit, unless they want to.

When my siblings and I were around age 10, my father would smoke at his office. We never knew how many he smoked. We begged him and ordered him and teased him to quit. Whenever we were at the office, we’d check his desk drawer for a pack,and if we found one, we would throw it out.

I don’t know if any of this played a role in it, but he did quit.

Knotmyday's avatar

What susanc said.

Jeruba's avatar

The book that Jack79 referred to might be The Only Way to Stop Smoking Permanently, by Allen Carr (Penguin Books). I ordered it from England through Amazon after my hair stylist told me it was the only thing that had worked for him. He said he’d had it for a year, and finally read it, and it did the trick after other methods had failed. I put it in my son’s drawer last May without a word, just a note asking him to please read it. He never said anything. It looks unopened, but it’s still sitting there.

Carr does have other titles on this subject

Jack79's avatar

Jeruba, ask your son to read it. Don’t ask him to quit smoking, only to read the book. Make him promise. Ok, maybe give him $3000 if you can afford it. It is not just that you will save him from dying young. You will help him live a better life.

Ever since I quit smoking I can fly up staircases like I did when I was a teenager, food tastes better (ok so I gained a few pounds), I can think clearer and I am even more sexually active (I think your son will like that bit). And of course I save all that money I was spending on cigarettes. Overall, my quality of life has improved, since I feel at least 10 years younger.

A couple of years ago (at the age of 34) I went to play some football with a bunch of guys in their early 20s. We played for about 2 hours without a break, after which time all of the other guys could not even walk, whereas I was urging them on and kept running around the field at top speed. There was a small hill where I lived and sometimes people would walk up to the top. Everyone I know needs 2 hours, I jog up non-stop in just under 40mins. When I smoked I had trouble climbing the 20-odd steps to my flat on the first floor. And could never walk for more than a couple of blocks. Tell your son all that…

Jeruba's avatar

@Jack, thanks, that was my idea too. I will shortly. My son hikes in the mountains, bikes, plays sports, and is carrying an extremely heavy load of schoolwork with extra responsibilities on top of that. (And his sexual activity is keeping him busier than he can actually afford to be in his circumstances.) So those are not selling points for him. But health certainly is. This is a guy who reads labels, knows all the terms of disguise for MSG, and won’t buy farmed fish. I won’t pressure him now. But just wait until school’s out in May.

Ironically, it was this son who pushed me to quit 19 years ago. Just possibly a reminder of that may escape my lips. After all, what’s the fun of being a parent if you can’t throw out a little guilt now and then?

Austinlad's avatar

I stopped smoking when I was 28 because my doctor told me a small shadow on my lung might someday become cancerous. Took me only one week to go back to smoking. A year later, I stopped cold turkey because I was so repelled by the smell of tobacco on myself. I’ve never gone back. Point: The reason to quit has to be your own. no one else’s.

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