Cigarette smoking grabs a hold of people early on, with 86 percent of smokers starting before age 21 -- and it can stick around for keeps, contributing to about 393,000 deaths per year in the United States alone [source: American Lung Association]. Worldwide, one out of every three people smokes, about 46 million of them in the U.S. [sources: World Bank, American Lung Association]. These are overwhelmingly negative numbers, but keeping negative emotions in check -- even when you can't stand seeing someone you love light up -- may improve your chances of being heard.
For a smoker, cigarettes often are comforting, something to look forward to throughout the day, and an escape from stress or confrontation. Having an awareness of what someone might be "giving up" by going without and making an effort to maybe even mourn or commiserate the loss with a smoker can make you a source of comfort and relief from the stress of quitting; better you than the cigarette be the friend. Being an encourager might mean stopping all of the negative talk about the habit itself and focusing solely on the person.
Smoking is an extremely difficult habit to quit, but while it's helpful to acknowledge this fact, don't give into the defeating attitudes -- yours and the smokers -- that can come with it. Keep up the good fight even in the face of multiple failures. Some tips from the American Cancer Society on how to do this include the following:
- Let the person quitting take the lead in efforts to go and stay smoke-free.
- Help with small daily activities or chores to ease the burden of stress and physical withdrawal.
- Celebrate even the smallest gains against the smoker's old habits.
- Stay calm and understanding even after relapses.
- Keep advice, complaining and negative thoughts to yourself.
- Be positive [source: American Cancer Society].
Encouraging a loved one to quit smoking without getting frustrated or losing hope can be hard, but it's not really as hard as giving up smoking. Set the smoker's harder task at the forefront and be a supporter. Some ways to lead from the heart follow next.