It is well documented that in Australia, smoking is one of the leading causes of preventable disease and premature death.

It contributes to more drug-related hospitalisations and deaths, than alcohol and illicit drug use combined.

The latest research reveals that 2 in 3 smokers will die prematurely, and on average die 10 years earlier than people who don’t smoke.

Think that your loved one doesn’t smoke that much?

Even smoking ‘just’ 10 cigarettes a day, can double a smoker’s risk of dying prematurely.

If your loved one smokes 25 cigarettes per day, their risk of premature death increases four to five times.

With smoking causing such devastating loss and chronic ill-health, it can be very hard to watch someone that you deeply love and care about, smoke.

So what can you do to help?

The most important thing you can do, is to provide support and encouragement.

The more support smokers receive, the more likely they are to quit, and the more likely they are to remain smokefree in the long term.

Of course, the support you provide depends on your relationship with your loved one, and how often you see or talk to them. For example, are you trying to encourage your partner to quit, or your mother who lives interstate? Is it your best friend’s smoking that concerns you? Or is it your eldest child who is about to start their own family? Maybe it’s your closest colleague and ally at work…

As engaging in this conversation can at times be difficult, these five tips can help:

1. Start the conversation

It is often with the people whom we are closest with, where we struggle to ask how they’re currently feeling about their smoking, and whether they’re considering quitting.

Due to a range of reasons, loved ones can often be quick to preach, argue, criticise or nag the person they care about to ‘just quit’. This approach does not help, and can make your loved one feel angry and resentful, and at times, more determined to keep smoking.

Where possible, find an opening to help start the conversation. For example:

  • the latest news about the health effects of smoking
  • the continuous increase in cigarette prices
  • impending legislation that smokefree outdoor dining will come into force
  • the latest TV commercial encouraging smokers to think about quitting

The discussion may also revolve around New Year’s resolutions, or wishing to achieve a few health and wellbeing goals in 2016.

When there is an opening, acknowledge that quitting is hard and that most smokers make many attempts. The goal is to ‘not give up giving up’.

If your loved one is considering quitting, tell them that ‘this is great news’, and that you’re ready to help and support them without judgement.

Remember that ultimately the decision to quit has to come from them – they must want to quit for themselves.

Encourage your loved one to focus on what they will gain from quitting – there are many benefits, rather than focusing on what they are losing…

2. Understand the power of addiction and recommend the quitting medications

Quitting is hard. Nicotine is the drug in tobacco that causes addiction, and is often the main reason why people cannot quit.

If your loved one smokes within 30 minutes of waking, or smokes 10 or more cigarettes per day, or in previous quit attempts has experienced cravings and withdrawal, they are considered as nicotine dependent.

Withdrawal symptoms can be quite intense. Your loved one may experience headaches, have difficulty sleeping and be quite irritable and cranky with you. Be patient and support them through these changes reminding them of the benefits, and how their body is healing.

Remind yourself, ‘that this too shall pass’ and in time, your loved one WILL feel better.

If you have never smoked, understand the power of addiction. Think about how you cope/relax when you’re stressed, bored or angry?

Relapse is common amongst smokers wishing to quit, with most smokers making many attempts to quit before they are successful. Encourage your loved one to not be hard on themselves, and to learn from their slip-up. What could they do differently next time? Are they prepared to give quitting another go?

Recommend the quitting medications – they work! The quitting medications can help to reduce their cravings and withdrawal, and can double to triple a smokers’ chance of quitting successfully.

If they haven’t worked in the past, encourage your loved one to try another product, and to ensure that they use the product correctly (as recommended).

Also remind your loved one to use the quitting medications for a suitable length of time (a minimum of 8 – 10 weeks).

If you are an ex-smoker, be mindful of preaching what worked for you, as this may not necessarily work for your loved one…

These quitting tips can also help your loved one manage their cravings and withdrawal.

Interested in the remaining 3 tips?

They will be shared in next week’s post.

We hope you enjoyed this post and until next time, wishing you and your loved ones great health and wellbeing.

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Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2011). Key indicators of progress for chronic disease and associated determinants: data report. Cat. no. PHE 142. Canberra: AIHW.

Banks B, Joshy G, Weber MF, Liu B, Grenfell R, Egger S, Paige E, Lopez AD, Sitas F & Beral V (2015). Tobacco smoking and all-cause mortality in a large Australian cohort study: findings from a mature epidemic with current low smoking prevalence. BMC Medicine. 13:38 doi:10.1186/s12916-015-0281-z.

Begg S, Vos T, Barker B, Stevenson C, Stanley L & Lopez A (2007). The burden of disease and injury in Australia 2003. PHE 82. Canberra: Australian Institute for Health and Welfare. Available at title/10317.

Collins D & Lapsley H (2008). The costs of tobacco, alcohol and illicit drug abuse to Australian society in 2004/05. P3 2625. Canberra: Department of Health and Ageing. http://www.$File/mono64. pdf.

US Surgeon General’s Report (2015). Let’s make the next generation tobacco-free. Your guide to the 50th Anniversary Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.