How to Tell Friends and Family You're Quitting Smoking

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You've decided you're going to change your life for the better and quit smoking. Sometimes looping in your friends and family with such a big life change can be difficult to navigate. They may have no idea what to expect, how challenging it could be for you, or how to be part of your success. They may do things that hinder your progress without even realizing it.

At the same time, family and friends can offer a strong support system in your quest to quit smoking that can really aid your success. Here's how to express to your friends and family what quitting means to you and let them know how they can best support and help you during the process.

Tell Them What Nicotine Withdrawal Can Be Like

The process of nicotine withdrawal can be very challenging for you and, by extension, those around you. Let your friends and family know what to expect for the next month or so. Most people don't realize that nicotine addiction is one of the hardest drugs to kick, in part due to how ingrained it is in daily life.

Let your friends and family know that the first few weeks of smoking cessation are usually the worst, and it doesn't suddenly get better. It will be a gradual process.

Everyone reacts to the withdrawal symptoms differently, but in general, let them know not to expect much from you during the first two weeks (what some addiction counselors refer to as "Hell Week" and "Heck Week"). Explain that you will most likely not be your normal self and a lot of your attention and energy will likely be taken up by fighting the physical and mental urges to smoke.

When someone quits smoking, the body and mind crave cigarettes and will do anything to try to get you to smoke again. You may even rationalize that "now is not a good time" to quit.

Tell Them You May Be Irritable

Irritability is a common symptom of quitting smoking. In fact, you may display a range of emotions and behaviors, which may involve crying, yelling, or even ignoring your loved ones. Tell them you may even say hurtful things, but reassure them that this will pass.

Tell Them You Might Get Depressed

Feeling depressed is another common symptom of nicotine withdrawal. Explain to your friends and family that you may:

  • Question the worth of your existence
  • Talk about feeling a sense of emptiness and loss
  • Not be able to sleep
  • Develop aches and pains

You may act like the pain you're experiencing is your friends' and family's fault. Make sure they know not to feel responsible for your discomfort and depression.

Even if they find it tough to see you this way, tell them that no matter what, you do not want them to tell you that it's OK to smoke to make the pain go away. Ask them to support you by being strong when you are down.

Tell Them What Not to Do

There could be things that you prefer they absolutely don't do as you quit smoking. Here's a list to get you started. Of course, feel free to modify to best suit your situation.

  • Don't talk about cigarettes, unless you bring them up first. After all, you're trying to get them off your mind.
  • Don't be hurt when you push them away, but be there when you need a hug.
  • Don't try to argue with you when you start to rationalize. Silence is a more powerful message.
  • Don't go too far, even if you tell them to leave you alone.

Tell Them How They Can Help

On the other hand, there could be ways your friends and family can actively help you as you quit cigarettes. For example, you may ask them to:

  • Help you avoid getting into stressful situations. If something stressful can be put off for a couple of weeks, ask them to do so. If not, ask them to cushion you.
  • Do the best they can to act as if everything is normal. The more normal they act, the faster you will get there, too.
  • Help you avoid trigger situations. These are places or activities where you usually smoke. (For example, ask them not to plan long road trips for the next couple of weeks if you usually smoke in the car).
  • Help you avoid being in the presence of smokers. This may mean avoiding favorite restaurants or bars, or hanging out with certain friends for awhile.
  • Give you encouragement. Keep telling you it will get better, that the emptiness and pain will fade, that they love you, and that this effort is worth it.
  • Offer words of support. Ask them to tell you that you are strong. Tell you they are proud of you. And also tell you they will be there no matter what you say or do.

Tell Them What Quitting Means to You

It may be helpful to tell them how important quitting smoking is to you, why you're doing it, and what it means. You could tell them that while you're doing it for yourself, those around you will benefit as well.

Make it personal. Sharing your reasons, however big or small, can help your loved ones better understand your experience. For you, quitting may mean better health, a better quality of life, and more time with your loved ones. It may also mean no longer dealing with the smell of smoke, cigarette stains, or always having to know the closest place that sells cigarettes.

Establish Healthy Boundaries

If someone isn't helping you in your journey to quit, you might need to set a healthy boundary. Tell them no, communicate your needs, and rid the guilt you may feel for doing so. Quitting smoking is so important for your health, so do what you need to create a setting for success.

Setting boundaries with your friends and family may not be an easy process, but can be really beneficial so that everyone is on the same page. Doing so could involve asking them not to smoke around you or telling them that you won't be going to places that make you feel triggered to smoke or force you to be around people who are smoking. It can be really hard to draw these lines, but don't be afraid to speak up.

Even things as simple as how they speak to you or ask you questions about smoking might be not be helpful, if it comes across as nagging for example, and need reassessment if you find them bothersome.

A Word From Verywell

Quitting smoking can be really hard, but having a support system around you can make it easier. Communicating with friends and family when you decide to quit and while you are on your quit journey is an important step.

You may want to have these conversations in person or you may prefer to write a letter. Either way, writing your thoughts down could be helpful in this process. Be sure to thank your friends and family for providing their love and support and know that, while it may be tough, quitting will benefit everyone in your life in the long run—and especially you.

7 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Soulakova JN, Tang CY, Leonardo SA, Taliaferro LA. Motivational benefits of social support and behavioural interventions for smoking cessation. J Smok Cessat. 2018;13(4):216-226. doi:10.1017/jsc.2017.26

  2. American Cancer Society. Why people start smoking and why it's so hard to stop.

  3. National Cancer Institute. How to handle withdrawal symptoms and triggers when you decide to quit smoking.

  4. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. 7 common withdrawal symptoms.

  5. National Institute of Mental Health. Depression.

  6. Mental Health America. How can I set healthy boundaries with my family?.

  7. How to support your quitter.

By Terry Martin
Terry Martin quit smoking after 26 years and is now an advocate for those seeking freedom from nicotine addiction.