What type of quit smoking supporter do you need to be?

Someone you care about wants to quit smoking. It might be your partner or best friend, a relative, or a work colleague. You really want to be there to support them, but sometimes it's hard to know how. You want them to realise how smoking can damage their health and you wish that would be enough to make them quit. You've tried nagging them with the facts, but that doesn't seem to work. So what can you try instead?

Different types of quit smoking support

Just as there are different types of smokers and different methods of quitting smoking, there are different approaches you might like to try to support someone who wants to quit smoking.

Take cues from your smoker. Think about the type of support they respond best to in work and personal situations. Then have a look through these different supporter profiles to see which might match-up best with the needs of your smoker to help get them across the quit smoking finish line.

The cheerleader

If your smoker responds best to positive thinking, affirmations and high-energy motivation, they might need you to be their cheerleader.

You might like to:

  • remind your smoker that you're available at the other end of the phone to offer unconditional support, no matter what time of the day or night
  • send your smoker supportive text messages
  • spend extra time with your smoker, just hanging out or  getting stuck into an activity together – like learning a craft, going walking, dancing, surfing, or kicking a footy.

The coach

If your smoker responds best to pep talks, high fives and constructive criticism, they might need you to be their coach.

You could:

  • work with your smoker to create a plan with strategies to help them through their quitting journey
  • build some routine changes into the plan to help address and remove some of their smoking triggers: if you're used to catching-up after work with a drink, you could start going to the gym together instead
  • send them coach-like text messages: "You’re doing great", "Keep your eye on the prize", "Stick with it buddy".

The project manager

If your smoker responds best to colour-coded plans, instructional guides and constant communication, they might need you to be their project manager.

You might like to:  

  • map out your smokers quit date with them on their calendar
  • help them write a list of the steps they will take towards quitting – this might include seeing their doctor and writing down the reasons why they want to quit smoking
  • make them a quit kit filled with goodies like mints, a fidget spinner, herbal teabags and healthy snacks to help distract them from the urge to smoke and keep them on track with their quitting effort.

The spiritual guide

If your smoker responds best to philosophy, nature and meditation, they might need you to be their spiritual guide.

You could: 

  • spend time with them reflecting on the big picture and long-term benefits of quitting
  • plan a weekend of nurturing together: think yoga, long walks or a massage
  • surprise them with a healthy home-cooked meal, or cook a healthy meal together as a positive distraction.

If you're not sure what type of supporter your smoker needs, ask them, and then offer a suggestion of how you might be able to help.  

Instead of simply saying "Shout out if you need something", offer concrete ideas like "Let's go for a beach walk this weekend", or ask them if they want to see a specific movie and then let them know what time you will pick them up.

Also keep in mind that you can’t pressure your smoker into quitting. There will be times in their life when it is not a good time to quit, and you need to let them know that you will be there to support them when they are ready.  

If your smoker is struggling with how to start their quit attempt, you could encourage them to make a doctor's appointment, and even offer to go along with them if they'd like you to. Smokers are up to 4x more likely to succeed in quitting with the help of a healthcare professional compared to quitting unaided1, so suggesting a doctor's appointment might be one of the many things you could do as a supporter to help them to get on track.

©Pfizer 2018. Pfizer Australia Pty Limited. Pfizer Medical Information: 1800 675 229. Sydney, Australia. PP-CHM-AUS-0577, 08/2018

1West. R (2012) Stop smoking services; increased chances of quitting. NCSCT Briefing #8. London: National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training.