How to Support Your Loved Ones in their Efforts to Quit Smoking

If you want a loved one to stop smoking and you feel tempted to nag him or her, you may want to try to curb your impulse. You might be doing more harm than good, a Winship Cancer Institute expert says. Reinforce positively and try not to nag, advises Carla Berg, Ph.D., a member of the Cancer Prevention and Control department of Winship and also a professor in the Rollins School of Public Health.

Help Your Loved Ones Quit SmokingWith Heart Month upon us and roughly 17-18%  of adults in the United States continuing to smoke, this is important. Smoking is not only is the major cause of lung cancer, the nation’s number one cancer killer, but it’s also responsible for as many as 30% of all coronary heart disease deaths in the United States each year. Smoking is a major risk factor for more than two dozen other cancers, including head and neck cancer, bladder cancer and stomach cancer.

Berg says an important component can be providing support to someone who is trying to quit. The initiation, maintenance and cessation of smoking is strongly influenced by other family members, Berg says. Smokers are more likely to marry smokers, to smoke the same number of cigarettes as their spouse, and to quit at the same time. Smokers who are married to nonsmokers or ex-smokers are more likely to quit and remain abstinent. In addition, married smokers have higher quit rates than those who are divorced, widowed or have never married. Research shows that support from the spouse and from other family members and friends is highly predictive of successful smoking cessation. In particular, supportive behaviors involving cooperative behaviors, such as talking the smoker out of smoking the cigarette, and reinforcement, such as expressing pleasure at the smoker’s efforts to quit, predict successful quitting. Negative behaviors, such as nagging the smoker and complaining about smoking, are predictive of relapse. In fact, supportive behaviors have been associated with initial smoking cessation, while negative or critical behaviors have been associated with earlier relapse.

In addition, encouraging the establishment of smoke-free homes reduces exposure to secondhand smoke among all people living with smokers. Because secondhand smoke exposure has been found to have detrimental effects on the cardiovascular health of people living with smokers, particularly children in homes where smoking occurs, promoting smoke-free homes is critical. Research also has shown that creating smoke-free homes also encourages attempts to quit smoking and reduced cigarette consumption among smokers.

Do:

  • Talk the smoker out of smoking the cigarette
  • Express pleasure at the smoker’s efforts to quit
  • Encourage smoke-free home policies
  • Support attempts to quit

Don’t:

  • Nag the smoker
  • Complain about smoking
  • Shun the smoker
  • Shame or guilt the smoker

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