Father and daughter with head in his shoulder

When a family member decides to quit smoking, your support can make all the difference in their ongoing success. If that family member happens to be a parent, the quit smoking journey becomes much more personal. Whether you’re actively giving care to your parents, or you’re looking to quit alongside them, you can offer support and guidance through every step of the way—and help your loved ones avoid health issues such as lung cancer, heart disease, and stroke.4

How to Support Someone Quitting Smoking

While quitting smoking can have challenges, your support of your parents and loved ones is key: most people who are able to stop smoking are the ones who get help and encouragement from family.2 Here are some ways you can do exactly that:

Encourage Open Communication

Let them know you're there to support them every step of the way through their decision to improve their health.3 Encourage them by asking them what they need to make their quit smoking journey smooth. Ask them what the best thing you could do for them.1 Your parent may just want to talk, or they need extra help when a tough situation arises, such as a craving at home or work.1 Your support should follow their lead, as unwanted help is often not perceived as helpful.2

Create A Smoke-Free Environment

There are simple things you can do in your parents’ living spaces to encourage a smoke-free environment. Remove smoking paraphernalia such as ashtrays, matches, lighters, and cigarette cases.3 Clean the upholstery of any furniture, linen, clothing, or carpets that might retain the smell of cigarette smoke.3 Cigarette smoking is an example of routine: most smokers have a routine of times, places, and even social situations in which they smoke.3 Therefore, in helping a loved one quit, it’s important to break this routine by changing up daily tasks such as the first cup of coffee in the morning, or rearranging furniture to break up usual places where your loved ones smoke.3 Keep your parents away from places where other people may be smoking: consider going out to a movie or eating at a healthy restaurant to break them out of their routine.3 Or you can go for a walk and breathe in fresh air!3  By providing a distraction from their craving, you’re helping to support your parents on their journey to quit smoking.3

Recognize Withdrawal Symptoms and Relapses

According to the American Lung Association, smokers who return to smoking do so within the first three months.2 Having a “slip” (a cigarette or a puff on one) is common—however, it doesn’t mean that they’ve fully returned to smoking.2 Encourage your loved one to keep an accountability journal to stay committed to their quit. Recognize that it’s easy for a slip to lead to a relapse and ask your parents about the situation that led to the slip; use this as an opportunity to help your parent learn about their own triggers so that they’ll better equipped to avoid them in the future. Withdrawing from cigarettes and nicotine comes with its own symptoms that extend beyond the craving for a smoke.5 Fortunately, nicotine withdrawal doesn’t have its own health consequences.5 Some of the most common symptoms that happen from cigarette withdrawal include:5

• Feeling irritated, grouchy, or upset

• Difficulty concentrating

• Having trouble sleeping

• Feeling hungry more often

• Feeling anxious, sad, or depressed

Over time, withdrawal symptoms will fade as long as you stay smoke free.5 In this setting, being patient is key: the first week to 10 days can be an emotionally trying time.2 It’s vital to avoid overly negative or potentially demoralizing talk such as nagging, scolding or preaching—none of which can work.1

Encourage Support Groups

Staying next to a loved one during a life-changing moment such as quitting smoking can be a challenge. Which is why it’s good to know about sources that can provide additional guidance and support for their quit. There are many resources available in the form of smoking cessation programs, counseling, and support groups. These resources can help you learn how to set a quit date, how to manage stress, and where to build social support.2 The best way to reduce the risks associated with secondhand smoke is through quitting smoking. Find more articles about quitting smoking and more at the Nicorette® Support Hub.

  1. How Do You Begin? American Lung Association. https://www.lung.org/quit-smoking/help-someone-quit/how-do-you-begin/. Accessed 3/14/2024.
  2. Being There for the Long Run. American Lung Association. https://www.lung.org/quit-smoking/help-someone-quit/being-there-for-the-long-run/. Accessed 3/13/2024.
  3. How to Help Your Elderly Parent Quit Smoking. Aegis Living. https://www.aegisliving.com/resource-center/how-to-help-your-elderly-loved-one-quit-smoking/. Accessed 3/13/2024.
  4. Health Effects of Cigarette Smoking. Centers for Disease Control. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/health_effects/effects_cig_smoking/index.htm/. Accessed 3/13/2024.
  5. 7 Common Withdrawal Symptoms. Centers for Disease Control. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/quit-smoking/7-common-withdrawal-symptoms/index.html. Accessed 3/13/2024.