How to Convince a Parent to Quit Smoking

Three Parts:Helping a Parent to QuitCreating a Positive EnvironmentDealing with Difficulties

Each year tobacco smoke causes upwards of six million deaths worldwide; of these deaths, 600,000 are caused by second-hand smoke.[1] Tobacco smoke is also the probable cause of some 25 different diseases.[2] If you are the child of a smoker, there is every reason to encourage your parent to quit, both for their health and well-being, and your own. Furthermore, a person who has decided to quit smoking is much more likely to follow through when they have the support of friends and family.[3] However, quitting smoking can be extremely difficult, and convincing a parent to quit smoking can be awkward and intimidating. Read on for strategies to help your parent quit smoking for good.

Part 1
Helping a Parent to Quit

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    Ask your parent to quit smoking. The first step in convincing your parent to quit smoking is to let them know that you would like them to quit. Although the decision to quit must come from the smoker themselves, knowing that you wish they would quit will begin a dialogue between you and your parent.
    • Give your parent specific reasons why you would like them to quit: “I would love to run a marathon with you,” “I care for you and want you to stay healthy,” and other personal reasons for quitting will help to put your parent’s smoking into perspective and remind them of things smoking doesn’t allow them to do.
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    Be available. Make yourself available to talk when your parent gets a cigarette craving or is frustrated and cranky from nicotine withdrawal. Make sure to be available particularly during occasions when a smoker would crave a cigarette, such as that first morning coffee or a coffee break at work, after a meal, or at a party.[4][5]
    • Help out with chores, cooking dinner, taking care of children, and any other tasks that may be stressful to somebody trying to quit.
    • Help them get the types of things smokers need when they try to quit: hard candies, gum, straws or other things to chew on, and so on.[6]
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    Take their mind off smoking. Invite your parent out on excursions together that will help to take their mind off smoking, particularly during “nicotine fits,” or particularly difficult days. Going for a bike ride, shopping, eating at a new restaurant, seeing a movie together, and so on, are fun activities that both of you can enjoy and will focus your parent’s attention away from smoking.[7][8]
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    Make your home and their home smoke-free. Forbid smoking in any part of your house, and remove everything from their home that may cause your parent to relapse: cigarettes, ash trays, matches and lighters, and so on.
    • Try to remove the scent of smoke from your parent’s home, as well. Clean any clothes, sheets, curtains, carpets and other materials that have absorbed smoke. [9]
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    Encourage them to use nicotine alternatives. If quitting is proving to be particularly difficult for your parent, you can suggest that they explore cigarette alternatives. Nicotine alters a smoker’s brain and leads to an addiction that is difficult to shake off. Your parent may need to try one or more of the following in order to quit for good:
    • Nicotine patches can be bought over-the-counter and come in a variety of strengths. Depending on the amount they smoke, your parent can control the amount of nicotine they take in and gradually taper down according to a suggested schedule.
    • Nicotine gum and lozenges are readily available in pharmacies and have helped many people quit over the past two decades.
    • Nicotine spray can be obtained with a prescription from a physician.
    • Nicotine replacement medicines. These will continue to provide your parent with nicotine, but in gradually reduced dosages, easing the smoker through the headaches and irritability that accompany quitting. Your parent should speak to their physician about medication options.
    • Bupropion hydrochloride, a prescribed antidepressant, also helps people to quit smoking. Suggest to your parent that they speak with a physician or therapist about the benefits and risks of using this type of medication.[10]

Part 2
Creating a Positive Environment

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    Be positive. Tell your parent that you believe that they have the strength to quit, even if they have attempted to in the past and have not been successful. Tell them that you are always there to provide more encouragement when the going gets tough.
    • Don’t question your parent’s ability or will to quit, as your belief in their success will serve as a reminder that they can, indeed, quit smoking.
    • Avoid getting angry, passing judgement, scolding and other types of behaviour that may hurt your parent’s feelings and self-confidence. A smoker will often turn to a cigarette to deal with this type of stress. [11]
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    See it from their perspective. Smoking is not only addictive, but over time becomes an integral part of a smoker’s everyday life. It can become like “an old friend” who is always there during the tough times. If you have smoked in the past, empathizing with a parent who smokes may come naturally; otherwise, try to understand the importance of smoking in your parent’s life, and the difficulty they face in quitting.
    • Make sure your parent knows that you understand the role of cigarettes in their life, and how difficult the task ahead of them is.[12][13]
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    Be sensitive to withdrawal symptoms. Smokers who quit – especially cold turkey – will most likely experience one or more of the following withdrawal symptoms: intense nicotine cravings; irritability; headaches; difficulty concentrating; anxiety and depression; nightmares; and increased appetite and weight gain. These symptoms can appear two to three hours after your parent smokes their last cigarette and hit hardest about two to three days after that. If you understand the very real difficulties associated with quitting, you will be able to better empathize and help your parent to quit.[14]
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    Celebrate milestones. Each day, week, or month that your parent goes smoke-free, let them know how impressed you are that they are quitting. To show your appreciation, give them a gift or take them out on the town as a reward for their achievement.[15]
    • Small tokens of encouragement will help your parent to begin seeing quitting as a positive step in their life, rather than simply as the loss of the nicotine they crave.
    • Encouragement can come in many forms: words of gratitude; a card; flowers; a meal at their favorite restaurant; a trip to the cinema, and so on.[16][17]
    • It is best to give your parent an immediate reward, rather than a promise of a future gift or activity. Immediate rewards are more effective during the difficult early stages of quitting.[18]

Part 3
Dealing with Difficulties

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    Encourage your parent if they "slip." Most smokers struggle to quit cold turkey, and "slipping" - taking a puff, or smoking a cigarette or two - is common. Encourage your parent during this time, even if you are disappointed or angry.
    • Remind your parent of all of the reasons they quit in the first place, as well as the amount of time they were able to go without smoking before they slipped.
    • Refer to them as a "quitter," rather than a "smoker," even after they slip. In this context, of course, "quitter" is a positive term.
    • Avoid getting angry, showing disappointment, or nagging your parent when you discover a slip. Keep up the encouragement.[19]
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    Remain encouraging if your parent relapses. Most smokers require several attempts before they quit smoking for good, and relapses - reverting back to regular smoking patterns - is not out of the ordinary. Remain positive and supportive if a relapse occurs.
    • Let your parent know that you are proud of them for trying to quit, and for staying smoke-free during that time. Make sure they know that they didn't fail, but made an impressive first try.
    • Encourage them to learn from the experience and help them to see that they will be better prepared the next time they attempt to quit.
    • Say "When you try to quit again...," rather than, "If you try to quit again..."[20]
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    Get outside help. Some parents will have serious difficulties with quitting, whether out of ingrained habit, a deep addiction, or emotional reasons. If your parent would like to quit smoking, but faces difficult obstacles in doing so, seek outside help to help them over the hurdles. Possible options include:
    • Quit-smoking program. These can done in-person, online and over the phone. Check with your parent's physician, local health unit or lung association for recommendations.
    • Support group. Ask your parent's physician to recommend a smoker's support group, or inquire at your local health unit or lung association.
    • Apps. There are a number of quit-smoking apps available for your parent's phone, tablet, and other devices. Examples can be found here.[21]
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    Protect yourself. A parent trying to quit smoking may take several attempts - and weeks, if not months or years - to finally quit for good. If you live with your parents, and particularly if you will be living with your parents for many more years, it is important to protect yourself against the dangers of second-hand smoke
    • Hold a family meeting. If you feel confident enough to discuss your parent's smoking in an open and honest manner, sit down with your family and let them know the reasons why you would like a smoke-free home. Make sure your parent knows of the multitude of dangers their smoke poses to your health. Ask them to read up on second-hand smoke and ways to protect you from it, such as can be found here.
    • Ask your parent to smoke outside. Have them smoke in a designated area where there is little risk of the smoke blowing back into the house. If they agree, remove all ash trays from your home and ask your parent to clean any carpets, curtains and clothing that has absorbed smoke.
    • When confronted with a stubborn smoker, ask them to at least smoke in one specific room of the house, rather than anywhere they please. Also make sure to open the windows if your parent insists on smoking inside, and ask your parent to install an air purifier or other filter for the vents.
    • Tell your parent you would like the car to be a smoke-free zone. Ask them to stop driving and smoke outside if they get a craving.


You might suggest to your parent that they read The Easy Way to Stop Smoking, by Allen Carr.

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Smoking Addictions | Telling Parents Important Things