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Being There for the Long Run

Quitting smoking is a journey and a process, not a single event. You can help someone throughout that journey until they are able to quit for good.

Ask Them What You Can Do to Help

Let your friend or family member know that you are available to help. Ask them what you can do to help. Unwanted help is often not perceived as helpful, so be sure to follow their lead. Simply letting them know that you support them and are there to help when needed can often be the biggest help of all.

Help Your Friend Get Professional Help

Smokers can get help from the American Lung Association Lung HelpLine at 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872). Trained HelpLine smoking cessation counselors can suggest lots of ways to quit smoking and to stay quit. For example:

  • How to set a quit date.
  • How to manage stress and negative feelings.
  • Where to get additional support
  • Building social support.
  • Learning how to relax and control weight.
  • Planning how to manage urges and cravings to smoke.
  • How medications work. Quit smoking medications, such as nicotine gum, skin patches, nasal spray, oral inhalers, and non-nicotine medications buproprion hydrochloride (Zyban®) and varenicline (Chantix®), help relieve physical symptoms when trying to quit. These products should not be used by pregnant or nursing women. People with other medical conditions should consult their physicians before using these medications.

How Long Will Your Friend Need Help?

The first seven to 10 days are the toughest. Most smokers who return to smoking do so within the first three months. The best thing you can do is be empathetic, help them focus on what they accomplished and continue to be supportive and available.

"Slips" (having a puff or smoking one or two cigarettes) are pretty common. If your friend has slipped, remind them of all the good reasons to stay quit. Affirm all your friend's nonsmoking efforts, and remind them that a "slip" does not mean they're a smoker again. As long as they keep trying and don't give up, they will be able to quit for good.

Former smokers may encounter an urge to smoke months or even years after they quit. This is normal. Remind your friend that such urges will occur less often over time and they'll eventually stop completely.

You deserve a lot of credit for helping someone overcome their addiction. Your help can make the difference. Most people who are able to stop smoking are the ones who get help and encouragement from family, friends and co-workers.

If Your Friend Starts Smoking Again

Forget about blame or guilt. Your friend is really still learning how to quit—they are not failing. Remind your friend about how well he or she did during the time without cigarettes. Each time someone tries to quit is a step forward. The best thing to say to your friend is, "Good try! I care about you and please let me know what I can do to help."

Additional Resources

Suggest that your friend check out the many Freedom From Smoking® resources, which include:

  • Freedom From Smoking® Group Clinics—Led by a certified facilitator, individuals go through the process of quitting smoking in a supportive environment.
  • Freedom From Smoking® Plus—Start your quit smoking journey with the click of a button. Access our quit smoking program on your phone, tablet or desktop computer—anytime, anywhere.
  • Freedom From Smoking® The Guide to Help You Quit Smoking—Available in English and Spanish, this detailed guide takes you through the process of quitting day by day.
  • And don't forget to call the Lung HelpLine at 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) for more assistance!

    Reviewed and approved by the American Lung Association Scientific and Medical Editorial Review Panel. Last reviewed March 8, 2019.

    Page Last Updated: April 4, 2019

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