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If your partner is trying to quit smoking, there are many ways you can help. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that around 70 percent of smokers say they want to quit. However, a much smaller percentage of smokers are successful.
Despite the difficulties in quitting, 40 percent of those who are successful attribute their successes to having support. Therefore, you play a greater role in your partner’s ability to quit than you might realize. Consider the ways you can help your partner quit.
Many smokers already know the risks that this habit entails. Still, the increased risks of lung cancer and heart disease are often not enough. The CDC says that nicotine may be just as addictive as cocaine and heroin.
Some smokers don’t realize the emotional and physical damage their habit has on loved ones. Secondhand smoke is hazardous. Cigarettes can also be expensive.
You can put the effects of your partner’s habit into perspective by doing the following:
Using an aid to help quit smoking is among the most common methods of quitting. They’re often costly, but these aids often end up being less expensive than cigarettes, especially if a heavy smoker is using them. Nicotine replacement products are the first choice. They come in many forms, including:
You can help by making sure your partner has enough of the products and by stocking up when you suspect they’re running low.
Despite the promise of nicotine replacements, they don’t always work. This can be discouraging for smokers. Relapses can happen. If you suspect nicotine replacement products aren’t strong enough for your partner’s addiction, help them investigate other options. They can talk to their doctor about prescription alternatives, such as bupropion and varenicline tartrate. These work by altering brain chemicals rather than offering nicotine replacement.
Perhaps one of the reasons why many smokers refrain from quitting is that they’re afraid of the withdrawal symptoms. These can include:
It’s estimated that between 80 and 90 percent of smokers are physically addicted to nicotine. Withdrawal symptoms can surpass cravings for cigarettes. This means that your partner might still be going through withdrawal despite no longer physically craving nicotine. Knowing this ahead of time can prepare you to expect withdrawal symptoms. It’s important to be patient during the period of withdrawal.
Distractions can go a long way in battling cravings and withdrawal symptoms. If your partner needs a distraction from smoking, offer to do one of the following with them:
Find something your partner enjoys that can distract them from the cravings. However, try to avoid going to places where there may be other smokers, such as concerts and bars.
You can also offer tips for your partner to try out when you’re not around, such as:
It’s important not to let any excitement you may be feeling set up unrealistic expectations. If your partner thinks you’re beginning to nag, they may stop listening to you completely. It’s important to approach the discussion in a measured way and then know when you’ve said all you should for that day. Give your partner things to think about, and then let them come to you to talk about it when the time is right.
However, encouragement is important. Helping your partner is crucial to their success. After a while, they might lose momentum because there’s nothing to look forward to. Help them create rewards, such as:
While you can offer your partner a great deal of help, it’s also important to know when to seek outside resources. If your partner is having a particularly difficult time and is having severe withdrawal symptoms, consider helping them find behavioral therapy. Group therapy can also be helpful. It has the added benefit of offering social support from fellow smokers who want to quit while reducing any strain on your relationship.
There are apps and phone numbers to call for help as well. Both Android and Apple offer free apps to track success. These might be especially helpful if your partner is a visual learner. Don’t hesitate to call 800-QUIT-NOW, or 800-784-8669, for free resources if you’re feeling the situation is out of control and you want to give up.
Perhaps the most important way you can help your partner quit smoking is to be supportive, especially on hard days. Nicotine is a drug, and a nicotine addiction can be emotionally and physically painful, especially as your partner encounters withdrawals and cravings.
Most smokers who try to quit aren’t successful on the first try. Quitting can require multiple attempts. Your understanding and continued support will make it more likely that your partner will keep trying and ultimately succeed.
Written by: Kristeen Cherney
Medically reviewed on: Mar 29, 2016: Timothy J. Legg, PhD, PMHNP-BC, CASAC
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