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Beaver Medical Group

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Helping a Smoker to Quit

April 01, 2008

Ernie Medina, Jr., DrPH
Health Education

While most articles you read are directed towards the smoker, this article is directed towards friends and families of smokers who want to help the smokers in their lives to quit successfully.

Just about everyone--including smokers--knows about the bad effects of smoking and that they should quit. Pounding them over the head to quit usually doesn't help them to quit, so here are some tips on how you can help them become a non-smoker for life:

Change your judgmental attitude, especially if you are a former smoker yourself. For hardcore smokers who are addicted to nicotine, telling them to "Just gather up enough willpower and " is like telling a diabetic to use their willpower to make more insulin or reduce their insulin resistance!

Provide resources and be supportive. Find out where they are at and what they might need that would help them. Don't overwhelm them with resources that they don't need or want.

Help reduce the stress in their life, especially if they are approaching their quit date. Stress is the number one reason why recent quitters relapse and start smoking again.

Reward and celebrate small victories. Did they cut down the number of cigarettes this week? Celebrate that with something they enjoy though you may want to avoid using food except for major victory milestones like making it to the 6-month or 1-year mark. When they quit, celebrate the first day, third day, and first week of being a non-smoker.

If they quit but then relapse, congratulate them on the time they were a non-smoker and learn from this slip and help them to move on. No one would ever reach the peak of a mountain if every time they slipped, they had to go all the way back to the bottom and start over again!

Know what and when their big temptations to smoke are, and then provide "distractions" during those times to help them over those craving pot holes.

There's a whole host of information on the Internet about how to help smokers quit. Start with the American Cancer Society's website ( or TobaccoFreeCA ( You can also contact Beaver Medical Group's Health Education Department for more information on our free Quit Smoking class, open to both smokers and non-smokers. We're here to serve and help your smoking family and friends become non-smokers for life!

By Ernie Medina, Jr., DrPH, CHFI, a preventive care specialist in BMG's Health Education Department, who has been teaching our Quit Smoking class and helping patients quit smoking one-on-one for the last 14 years.