Tobacco is the single leading cause of preventable diseases and premature death, and it is estimated that over one hundred thousand people die of smoking related illnesses every year across the UK. But despite this being widely known knowledge, there are around 7 million smokers in the UK.

Dr Elizabeth Kershaw-Yates

Dr Elizabeth Kershaw-Yates

If you are worried about a loved one smoking and want to help them kick the habit, there are a number of things you can do:

Make sure they’re prepared

The best way to try and quit smoking is to have a plan mapped out beforehand. Be realistic and talk to your loved one about the kinds of tools that are out there. 90% of people initially try to quit smoking with no outside support at all, even though only around 5-7% of people are able to do it on their own.

Educate yourself and your loved one on the kinds of support there are – such as nicotine replacement therapy, medication and behavioural therapy.

Encourage them to take part in Stoptober

Stoptober is an annual public health campaign which encourages people to give up smoking for 28 days. It can be a real challenge, but the campaign means participants have access to advice, and supportive messages via text and email. Research suggests that people who manage to go 28 days without smoking during Stoptober are five times more likely to be successful long term.

Suggest nicotine replacement treatments (NRT)

The cravings a person feels when they go without tobacco is caused by a drop in nicotine levels. To combat these cravings, suggest that they try giving themselves small amounts of nicotine with nicotine replacement treatments. Over time, they can gradually reduce the amount of nicotine they put into their body until they are completely free of their addiction.

Nicotine patches, gum, or lozenges can all help to curb cravings. Electronic cigarettes can also help, and they carry only a fraction of the risk posed by cigarettes.

Encourage them

When someone is going through nicotine withdrawal, it can make them very irritable. Try not to take their mood too seriously and use words of encouragement when they feel like this, so they know that you still support their decision. Try to say things like, “I can tell this is hard for you, but well done for sticking with it.”

Be supportive

For the individual going through nicotine withdrawals, quitting cigarettes can be an intensely stressful time. Have things lined up to offer as a distraction if they are suffering from bad cravings – such as going for a walk or taking them to the cinema.

Try not to criticise them if they do end up slipping up and having a cigarette, and instead celebrate their small successes – such as having a day, or even a few hours, without smoking.

Advice given by Dr Elizabeth Kershaw-Yates, GP and one of the medical team at The Online Clinic:

Tagged in