It’s important to know how to be a good supporter to those quitting smoking, no matter the situation. So whether you’re a smoker whose smoking buddy has just let you know that they won’t be joining you on smoke breaks anymore, or you’re a non-smoker who has seen your loved one struggle to quit several times, here are 10 things not to say to a friend or loved one who is quitting smoking.
1. “So, you’re ‘quitting’ … again”
If a family member or friend is a smoker, they may have tried to quit before. Be supportive and leave the naysaying out of the conversation. Just be proud that they’re still trying to quit! Help them to see their past quit attempts not as failures, but as practice runs for success.
2. “Do you mind if I smoke?”
Smokers can still support a friend who is nixing cigarettes, but be respectful. Do the quitter a favor and avoid smoking nearby. And definitely don't offer a quitter a cigarette or ask them to hold onto your cigarette, even if you miss having a smoking buddy.
3. “I know exactly what you’re going through!”
No two quits are the same. You can’t know what someone else’s quit experience is like or what he or she needs without asking. So ask!
4. “Are you nervous about gaining weight?”
Don’t remind a quitter of any difficulties in swearing off cigarettes. Instead, offer to exercise together or cook a healthy meal.
5. “Great, you’re just going to be grumpy all the time now.”
Yeah, OK, a quitter may not feel like their best self—but withdrawal symptoms are usually temporary. Even if you get some attitude from your recent quitter, tell them that you understand the struggle is real and gently remind them that the urges to smoke should ease over time and to give their bodies and mind time to adjust.
6. “If you don’t cut it out for good, we’re through.”
Skip the ultimatums and instead let the quitter in your life know you’ll be there for them no matter what.
7. “I quit a while ago—you just have to want it enough.”
Quitting smoking is about more than willpower. Instead of bragging about your own success or downplaying the struggles of quitting, recognize that no two quit attempts are alike. Let the quitter know how happy you are to have them join the smokefree team.
8. “Now you never have to think of another cigarette ever again!”
When someone is leaving smoking behind, unfortunately, the rest of the world doesn’t follow suit. They may see smoking reminders daily, or face situations that cause urges to smoke. Recognize the daily strength needed to stay smokefree.
9. “But you’ve smoked for so long already. What’s the point in quitting?”
It’s never too late to quit. After two days smokefree, senses of taste and smell may begin to return to normal; after two weeks to three months smokefree, a smoker’s risk for heart attack begins to drop; and after one to nine months smokefree, shortness of breath decreases. That’s a lot of upside to remind a smoker of.
10. “A couple puffs won’t kill you.”
As much as losing a smoking buddy can be difficult to accept—smoking can be a very social experience—don’t undo your friend’s smokefree success with peer pressure. When people are quitting smoking, one puff from a cigarette can be a slippery slope, and it is a lot easier in the longer run to resist smoking altogether than to have just one. Ex-smokers can still be friends with smokers, just take smoking out of the equation.
There are plenty of ways to support someone who is quitting smoking. Recognize how your words may impact them and prepare to be the best supporter you can be!