Smoking is an addiction. That sounds like a simple statement that can be taken as read, but when you are trying to convince a smoker to quit, it’s something you really need to understand. Smoking is often referred to as a ‘habit’, when in reality the stronger term ‘addiction’ is far more realistic. Smokers become physically addicted to nicotine, the chemical found in cigarettes, and can experience uncomfortable and often painful physical symptoms of withdrawal when they try to quit.
The reason this is pointed out is that convincing someone to quit smoking for good is a difficult road, and only by understanding what you are actually dealing with can you have a chance of beating it. A tiny percentage of smokers – less than 10% – manage to quit on their first attempt. Most will take three or more attempts, and some may take over 10 attempts over a number of years to finally kick the addiction for good.
If you are struggling to support a smoker who continually goes back on their word – in your eyes – and starts smoking again, try and keep positive. Acknowledge, both to them and to yourself, that this is a marathon rather than a sprint, and by being continually upbeat your smoking friend or family member can be assured of your support.
Never, ever cast doubt on a smokers desire to quit just because they have failed before – doing so can make them angry, defiant and less likely to quit than ever before. Keep things in perspective, and see every failed attempt as one step closer to the final, successful, smoke-free life.
As a non-smoker (or an ex-smoker, depending on your situation), you probably find the entire concept of smoking distasteful. That is, after all, why you may be seeking to help a smoker quit their habit for good. To you, the reasons are obvious; smoking is not only bad for a smokers’ health and appearance, but it has financial repercussions, too. It should seem like an argument you’ll win easily, especially when statistics about how half of smokers want to quit are bandied around. It looks like an argument you, and a few well-learned truths about smoking, are destined to win.
However, what you must understand if you are trying to convince someone to quit smoking is this: smokers like smoking! That might sound like a ridiculous statement, but it’s something many people who try and convince a smoker to quit absolutely forget. A smoker may wish they had never started the habit and may want to quit, but in essence they enjoy the experience of smoking; and that’s why they do it. They probably know the downsides already, and have still chosen to smoke.
It’s important you don’t underestimate how much people can enjoy smoking, and particularly the social aspect of it. When you are presenting your case, don’t ever be harsh to a smoker, or try and shout at them in an attempt to make them quit the habit. Instead, acknowledge this is something they enjoy – even if you can’t see the benefits – and take a softer, more understanding approach. Using a gentler method of convincing, you are far more likely to succeed.
While dissuading people from quitting smoking is never a good idea, when presenting the reasons as to why a smoker should quit, it is important to be factual. If someone suspects any aspect of your reality talk is not actually true, then they may doubt the things – such as the substantial health risks associated with smoking – that are actually true. Any kink in your argument armour can cast doubt on the truthfulness of your entire statement, so if you are trying to persuade someone not to quit, don’t fall in to the trap of making false statements.
When it comes to smoking, one of the biggest lies told by those convincing smokers to quit is that “smokers raise smokers”. The idea is that people who smoke will inevitably, even if not deliberately, encourage their children to become smokers when they are open – and thus perpetuating the cycle of lung and health abuse for a new generation. It’s a statement that can have quite an impact on doting parents, who immediately redouble their efforts to quit in the hopes of saving their children from a life of nicotine addiction.
In reality, however, smokers do not raise smokers: in fact, studies and statistics show the opposite is true. The children of smokers – particularly if both parents smoke – are less likely to smoke than those raised in a non-smoking house, largely because they have been exposed to the unpleasant side of smoking, such as the smell, their entire lives. So resist saying to a smoker in an effort to convince them to quit, and focus instead on the financial and health implications of their habit.
When smoking is discussed, most people seem to have in mind the image of filtered cigarettes as the main item that people use to consume tobacco. For some unknown reason, other types of smoking – such as using a pipe and rolling your own cigarettes – do not attract quite the same amount of disdain as their orange-filtered cousins, when in reality all are as bad as each other. Any way of consuming tobacco, nicotine and the associated chemicals that are inhaled with every breath should be frowned upon.
It is not just non-smokers who focus their energies on regular cigarettes. Some smokers, particularly younger ones, believe that there is a definite separation between self-rolled cigarettes and pipes when compared to regular cigarettes. Sometimes, this belief stems from the fact they are ‘less harmful’ – a worrying, and untrue, distinction.
It is not tobacco itself – the crisp substance that is used to fill cigarettes, pipes and rolling papers alike – that is the problem with smoking. The issue is the chemicals that are inhaled in to the lungs; the manner in which these chemicals are inhaled is largely irrelevant. No smoking apparatus – be it a filtered, standard cigarette, a pipe or a rolling paper – is ‘better’ than the others. The only main difference is to cost, with tobacco for pipes and rolling papers tending to be cheaper, but the health benefits are non-existent. The fact remains that any type of smoking can be damaging to health, so switching to a different method of smoking is nothing but a waste of time.
The mental effort that it takes to give up smoking is well-known. It is certainly increased by keeping links to your recent status as a smoker – so giving up will take a little bit of a change in mentality. If, for example, you keep ashtrays lying around – even clean, unused ones which can be used by visitors – then you will be more compelled to smoke.
A lot depends on how much you used to smoke. If smoking was a major part of your life before – you used cigarettes to enhance your enjoyment of music, socializing or similar – then breaking the bond that it has over you is going to be all the more problematic. You may find that listening to the same albums and going to the same bars or clubs becomes a major temptation, even if you cannot smoke indoors in those clubs.
The psychological compulsion to smoke is probably the hardest part to get past. So keeping lighters and ashtrays around, or reading books about central characters who like to smoke pretty much incessantly is going to make giving up a lot harder. It is best to keep reminders to a minimum. This is not to say you should shun your best friend if they still smoke, but it might be a good idea to request of them that they keep their smoking to a minimum when they are around you. In the end you can’t close yourself off from all reminders, but limiting them will help.
Everyone who has tried to give up smoking has faced the full gamut of demons that can stop you from making a clean break. There are so many of them that it makes smoking cessation seem like an insurmountable obstacle. It really isn’t, though, and if you are resolute you can overcome the issues.
A lot of people are concerned that their appetite, and as a result their weight, will increase if they give up smoking. This is not necessarily true. While cigarettes are an appetite suppressant, the fact is that going on food binges as a result of giving up is not guaranteed. Your appetite may increase, but only if you are idle will it result in binges.
If you find things to take up your time, you will deal with the psychological desire to eat. Eating healthily at meal times will take away a lot of the physical compulsion to over eat, and the increase in appetite from smoking cessation is usually short-lived.
Similarly, people worry that when they give up smoking, they will replace it with another vice like alcohol. This is a danger. Replacing the buzz of cigarettes by increasing alcohol intake does happen – but the truth of the matter is that this compulsion is relatively short-lived, and getting over the initial problem is something that can be achieved if you are ready to fight.
Most of the barriers to smoking cessation are mental – if you are ready to take on the mental fight, then you will be successful.
We all know about the positive aspects of giving up smoking, and for the most part we know about the difficult side too. If you really want to break the hold that cigarettes have over you, you need to be ready to deal with the bad stuff. Paradoxically, though, you will do yourself no favors by considering the bad stuff ahead of the good. So how do you deal with the negative side while not turning it into a dominating issue?
The truth of the matter is that the bad side will be there whether or not you focus on it. The best way of dealing with it is to push it as far into the background as you possibly can. While it may seem like naivete to ignore the bad aspects, the truth is that you are not really doing anything harmful – you are accentuating the positive and preventing the negative side from becoming all-consuming. By focusing on the positive you can deal with the negative by diminishing it to the point where it ceases to be a factor.
When you break your leg, it gets put in a plaster cast so that there is no pressure placed on the healing bones. Your positive mental attitude can be the plaster cast that prevents you from racing back to the cigarettes and unravelling all of your good work. It’s not infallible – nothing is – but it is much better to back your own willpower and succeed than spend hundreds of dollars finding out what works.
One of the continuing failings of humanity is that we can be appallingly cruel to one another. When you announce that you are giving up smoking, you may expect people to be supportive, but it is not uncommon to find that someone will utter the dreaded words: “I’ll bet you [unspecified amount of money] that you don’t make it through a week without cracking.”. If this is the case, then your best option is to take that bet. If you know you can do it, then there is no harm in making a little bit of money into the bargain.
What you need to avoid though is taking the bet and then once you have got through the specified time barrier starting to smoke again. This is tempting, of course. It’s easy to think “I’ll have the money and then start smoking again”, so it is worth including a stipulation that you will pay the money back if you give up giving up. All of this may sound a little bit cynical, but if you are keen to give up yet assailed by temptation, adding an extra layer to your defenses is no bad idea.
People’s cynicism is a tough hurdle to overcome after deciding that you will give up smoking. Proving them wrong is not just a matter of you being right and them being stupid. In fact, if you can show them that you have inner strength, you will also prove a point to yourself. This can be worth a lot in future.
When you announce that you have decided to give up cigarettes, the response of friends and family is important in deciding how successful your bid for freedom will be. If they react by gathering around and giving you praise and support for your decision, then you stand a great chance of keeping to the good road. If they show concern, saying “Are you sure? You know how hard that’s going to be?”, it’s not the best start to your bid.
The key is to look at your cessation as a positive thing. You know already that it is not going to be easy, but there is a range of positive aspects to giving up smoking. The most positive of all is the simple fact of breaking an addiction. There are no words to describe how much more free you feel after getting the better of your cravings, and it is this freedom and the joy that it brings that are the real prizes for anyone who manages to dislodge the monkey from their back.
Don’t concentrate on the fact that it is going to be difficult. Accept that this is a given, and instead concentrate on the fact that you can do this. It is more important to concentrate on what you are capable of than to focus on the possible problems. In doing that, you create a bigger hurdle in your mind, and the power of positive thinking has been proven. You can’t build a castle by thinking that you can, but you can certainly get more done than if you concentrate on how hard it will be.
Giving up cigarettes is a pretty thankless task at the best of times. You already know the reasons why you are trying to give up, and at times it can seem like they just aren’t enough. It’s bad for your health, but you aren’t feeling too healthy right now without them. It saves you money, but these cravings make it hard to enjoy a better bank balance. It’s much worse if you try to suffer in silence, though. Your general mood may make you feel anti-social, but if you’re facing this alone it’s going to be much harder.
It’s best to have an understanding friend who appreciates what you are going through. There’s no way of saying that they will always be understanding – it can be tough to stay upbeat with a friend who is frequently complaining – but the truth of the matter is that a good friend will appreciate your reasons for wanting to stop smoking. If this friend is also trying to give up, then there is a question to be asked – are you likely to persuade one another to get back on the cigarettes, or is joint action going to help you both?
In many cases, two friends giving up together is a worthwhile endeavor. Your cravings are not that likely to be simultaneous, so when you’re feeling ragged they can keep your head above water and vice versa. You can also take up a hobby as a pair, and get the enjoyment from that that used to come from smoking. And if one of you cracks, the other is there to commiserate and help to stop it from becoming permanent.