Convincing someone to give up smoking

Originally Published: September 27, 1996 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: November 13, 2008
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Dear Alice,

My 15 year old son has started to smoke. (We do not smoke, although I did smoke for 4 years some 22 years ago.) We have presented him with as much information as possible about why he should not smoke, he has committed to try to stop — but I am not sure how much pressure to put on him — do I continue to ask? I am tempted to leave him some of the information I found here and on tobacco.org — only as a reminder.

I want to trust him and believe him, but I do not want to be stupid and gullible as well. I guess trust is more important, and he has earned that in the past — so I might as well continue now.

Thanks for listening and I really would appreciate any comments.

—A concerned Mother

Dear A concerned Mother,

First, congratulations on becoming a non-smoker! Given that you've successfully quit, you know that it takes tremendous willpower and motivation. Most young people don't particularly want to quit, which can make kicking the butts especially difficult. Teens cite the social aspects of smoking, the stress they are under, and even the fact that it gives them something to do with their hands as reasons they smoke. When asked what would make them quit, some say "nothing would."

So, what might work to get young people to quit, or at least to cut down? Here are a few possibilities:

  • Having a kissing relationship with a non-smoker, and an appeal from the non-smoker to stop tasting like an ashtray.
  • An appeal by a parent, especially one who formerly smoked. Share your motivation for quitting, the challenges you faced in doing so, and how you overcame those challenges. Be genuine about the reasons you liked smoking and your ultimate motivation for quitting.
  • A group decision to stop smoking among one's friends, possibly as a political statement.
  • Free nicotine gum or patches, although this is only method, not motivation.
  • Extra cash (think of all the money you could save and/or spend on something else!).
  • A new way of thinking: smoking isn't cool.
  • Setting house rules that limit the opportunity to smoke: no smoking in or near home, no smelling like smoke at home, smokers wash their own clothes, or whatever rules might make sense for your family.

Something else to consider: since you've spoken with your son about quitting, he is likely aware of the harmful health effects of smoking. Passive reminders about why smoking is unhealthy may not be effective as motivation to quit at this point in his life. A more effective tactic might be to continue to have open, respectful, calm, frank discussions with your son about your concern for his health and your hope he will quit. You can also ask questions like: What are the best reasons you can think of to quit? Do you see yourself as a smoker when you're an adult? What would make you feel ready to have your last cigarette? Having these types of conversations might help you and your son approach the issue as a team, rather than potentially feeling like adversaries.

As you know, your son is getting to the age where he has enough independence to make many decisions for himself, including whether he will smoke. You can set firm house rules and expectations to help guide and support your son as he begins to make adult decisions, like quitting smoking. You mention that your son has earned your trust in the past — entrusting him now with making his own decision about quitting smoking may help keep the paths of communication open, even if he continues to smoke for the time being. Knowing he can turn to you for support will be a great relief, whenever he decides to quit.

Wishing your family health,

Alice

October 5, 2006

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Dear A concerned Mother,

I'm a college student, 22 years old. I started to smoke when I spent a semester in a foreign country where smoking is much more common and accepted than in the US...

Dear A concerned Mother,

I'm a college student, 22 years old. I started to smoke when I spent a semester in a foreign country where smoking is much more common and accepted than in the US. I quit when I got home because I was concerned about what my parents would say about the habit.

I guess my quitting experience was a lot easier than most since I only smoked consistently for about 5 months, but just the fact that I developed a certain reliance on cigarettes in such a short period of time really demonstrates how psychologically and/or physically addictive cigarettes can be.

A lot of people on my college campus in the US smoke, so it's been hard not to start up again. Exercise has helped me a lot. So has reminding myself of all of the throat colds I got when I smoked! I also looked at some pictures of smokers' lungs vs. healthy lungs, and asked myself which ones I wanted.

Finally, something that I try to remember is that quitting a decade-long habit is extremely hard. I have such admiration for people who have been able to quit, but I don't want to be someone who has to make that decision in the future because it will only get harder. I hope your son can make the same choice.

Best of luck to the both of you.

June 21, 2005

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Dear Alice,

I am a recent non-smoker (smoked for 15 years) and am in my early 30's. The motivation for me is and always will be the additives that are in cigarettes and the deviant way big...

Dear Alice,

I am a recent non-smoker (smoked for 15 years) and am in my early 30's. The motivation for me is and always will be the additives that are in cigarettes and the deviant way big tobacco has manipulated, profited, and covered up. I am a bit stubborn and feel rather violated and angry that I have been a statistical money making pawn. I use this anger daily and keep a list of the chemicals/additives and how bad they are for motivation just in case!

Good Luck, here's to good health.

May 9, 2004

20630
Alice, Have quit smoking now for about three months and wanted to let you know that I used aerobic exercise as an incentive, i.e., used it as a bench mark to how bad I was with breathlessness and...
Alice, Have quit smoking now for about three months and wanted to let you know that I used aerobic exercise as an incentive, i.e., used it as a bench mark to how bad I was with breathlessness and nausea during previous activities. Am sure this is not unique, but think it may appeal to those who are quite vain (like myself) and are used to being good at sports, etc. I got into heavier smoking due to a period of apathy following unemployment. Used stopping smoking also as something that I could actually properly control in my life whilst waiting/searching for work. A heart monitor is also a handy tool for monitoring the improvement in your fitness and heart rate recovery as you get into a smoke free way of life. Sam

May 23, 2003

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hi alice, i am from india. just read your web site and thought if i can contribute a little to it. i am also one of those who stopped smoking after 2 years of hardcore smoking and doping. my...
hi alice, i am from india. just read your web site and thought if i can contribute a little to it. i am also one of those who stopped smoking after 2 years of hardcore smoking and doping. my inspiration or mentor who helped me stop smoking is my girlfriend. she is the one who really brought in front the reality of smoking, like how it affects the general health. all i want to say is that before thinking of quitting smoking, you need to have a very strong motivation and determination to hold out to your promise. secondly, for some time till your mental state becomes stable, stop watching anything that reminds you of smoking or presents you with a view that smoking is good. also, try to stay away from those friends who smoke... bring close those who appreciate you. believe me, the appreciation you get for quitting smoking is really great and keeps you on the path you have chosen. this is a part of what i observed during my experience. i hope this can be useful to others, also. b-bye, julius