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Being There for the Long Run

Quitting smoking is a journey, not a single event. You can help someone throughout that journey until they are able to quit for good.

Help Your Friend Make a Plan

Smokers can get help from the American Lung Association Lung HelpLine at 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872). Trained HelpLine smoking cessation counselors can suggest lots of ways to quit smoking and to stay quit. For example:

  • How to set a quit date.
  • Building social support.
  • Learning how to relax and control weight.
  • Planning how to deal with urges to smoke.
  • Quit smoking medications, such as nicotine gum, skin patches, nasal spray, oral inhalers, and non-nicotine medications buproprion hydrochloride (Zyban®) and varenicline (Chantix®), help relieve physical symptoms when trying to quit. These products should not be used by pregnant or nursing women. People with other medical conditions should consult their physicians before using these medications.

How Long Do You Need to Help?

The first seven to 10 days are the toughest, and your friend may need the most help during this time. Most smokers who return to smoking do so within the first three months, so try to keep in close touch for at least that long.

"Slips" (having a puff or smoking one or two cigarettes) are pretty common. If your friend has slipped, remind them of all the good reasons to stay quit. Praise all your friend's nonsmoking efforts, and remind them that a "slip" does not mean they're a smoker again. As long as they keep trying and don't give up, they will be able to quit for good.

Former smokers may encounter an urge to smoke months or even years after they quit. This is normal. Remind your friend that such urges will occur less often over time and they'll eventually stop completely.

You deserve a lot of credit for helping someone overcome their addiction. Your help can make the difference. Most people who are able to stop smoking are the ones who get help and encouragement from family, friends and co-workers.

If Your Friend Starts Smoking Again

Forget about blame or guilt. Your friend is really still learning how to quit - they are not failing. Remind your friend about how well he or she did during the time without cigarettes. Each time someone tries to quit is a step forward. Help figure out what led to the relapse and make a plan for what they'll do differently next time. The best thing to say to your friend is, "Good try! I still care about you and will help you until you quit smoking for good."

Try to feel good about all your efforts to help.You can prepare together for the next time your friend tries to quit smoking.

Additional Resources

Suggest that your friend check out the many Freedom From Smoking® resources, which include:

  • Freedom From Smoking® Group Clinics—Led by a certified facilitator, individuals go through the process of quitting smoking in a supportive environment.
  • Freedom From Smoking® Plus—Start your quit smoking journey with the click of a button. Access our quit smoking program on your phone, tablet or desktop computer—anytime, anywhere.
  • Freedom From Smoking® The Guide to Help You Quit Smoking—Available in English and Spanish, this detailed guide takes you through the process of quitting day by day.
  • And don't forget to call the Lung HelpLine at 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) for more assistance!

    Page Last Updated: February 13, 2019

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