How can I best help my boyfriend quit smoking?
April 29, 2011 1:38 PM   Subscribe

How can I best help my boyfriend quit smoking?

My boyfriend has decided he's ready to try quitting smoking again. Hooray! What are some things I can do to help, and what kind of support did you want while you were quitting? (Yes, I've asked him, but other ideas couldn't hurt.) I'm a nonsmoker myself.
posted by animalrainbow to Health & Fitness (38 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
the smoke enders program worked for me and my mom. haven't had a puff, or thought about having a puff, in close to ten years. twenty, for my mom. they have a website, tapes, and classes in major cities.
posted by ranunculus at 1:44 PM on April 29, 2011

stop kissing him.
posted by jsavimbi at 1:45 PM on April 29, 2011

Allen Carr's Easy Way is weirdly helpful.

Exercise, even just walking, is also tremendously helpful.

But mostly, what you can do is not fight with him if he gets cranky. Give him space, leave him be, don't escalate it by responding in kind. I was SO SO SO irritable when I quit smoking.
posted by kestrel251 at 1:47 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

No kissing was actually what kept me motivated, though I can see it irritating other people. Also seconding not taking it personally if he's cranky. And don't lock him out in the cold if he goes out for a last smoke (not that my bf did that to me ...)
posted by brilliantine at 1:52 PM on April 29, 2011

Encourage him to try Chantix.
posted by Perplexity at 1:54 PM on April 29, 2011

Umm, I quit smoking for a boyfriend before. He just hated it sooooo bad. And I knew that and I cared about him. HOWEVER! If he had pulled some manipulative drama like refusing to kiss me I probably would have kept smoking out of spite alone. Please don't do that.
posted by troublewithwolves at 2:03 PM on April 29, 2011 [10 favorites]

Remind him to wait 10 minutes if he's feeling a craving to light one up coming on.
Carry gum, keep him supplied with it.
Go catch a cold and give it to him (just kidding, though I've managed to quit by getting sick).
posted by lizbunny at 2:05 PM on April 29, 2011

I have no real advice for you, but you might be interested in this thread about the book by Carr that's been suggested.
posted by John Cohen at 2:06 PM on April 29, 2011

contra wolves, I was an every-once-in-a-while-when-I-drink smoker when I met my wife, and the "no kiss" method turned me into a 100% nonsmoker.
posted by Oktober at 2:07 PM on April 29, 2011

Do whatever he asks you to do. Maybe he wants to be super-accountable to someone, and if so you can do that. Maybe your job will be to have distractions on hand ("hey! youtube videos of kittens on treadmills!" etc), or to *not* keep ice cream in the house. Really, you want to be helpful and supportive in ways that are not annoying to him, for which he will be your expert.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:09 PM on April 29, 2011

I stopped smoking because my then-boyfriend now-husband didn't want to kiss me. He didn't even want to walk next to me when I was smoking outside. So, another vote for "it's disgusting when you do that." Then use positive reinforcement when he doesn't smoke. I'm sure you can figure out some reward...
posted by desjardins at 2:09 PM on April 29, 2011

This is really dumb, but I give my roommate a sticker at night when he has had a non-smoking day. He puts them on a piece of paper taped to the bathroom mirror, so even if he slips up a bit, he can see how many days he has successfully not smoked. He has smoked for 15+ years, so quitting is rough and he is hard on himself. So far we have gone through packs of fish stickers, bug stickers and gold stars. Dancing hamsters are next. Finding good stickers is hard, though.
posted by griselda at 2:18 PM on April 29, 2011 [8 favorites]

You should ask him if he wants you actively involved (talking about it, setting up challenges to help him get through, etc) or just leave him the heck alone to deal with it himself. If he wants you active, here are some ideas:

For the crankiness, make up a safeword like "is this the nicotine bitchiness?" that you or he can invoke when you notice him getting cranky, which will mean you instantly back off and give him space and don't hold the incident against him. (Think of a better safeword, though)

For the distractions, make a jar filled with slips of paper containing various treats. Anything from backrub, heavy petting, walk around the block, trip to the library, whatever small things would make him happy. These can either be for rewards after a successful day of quitting, or for 10-minute distractions to take his mind off the craving.
On preview: good stickers can be found at teacher supply stores.

If he'd rather that you just let him deal with it, then just leave him alone.
posted by CathyG at 2:22 PM on April 29, 2011

I'd suggest helping him get rid of all his smoking paraphrenalia. Help him get rid of his ashtrays, his matches, lighters, old cigarette butts, empty boxes, you name it... Basically, remove all evidence of his having smoked from his car, where he lives, and where you live.

Lizbunny's suggestion of always having gum with you is a really good one, as is kestrel251's suggestion of exercising. I quit by using nicotine gum, and started running my first day without cigarettes.

I'd also see if you can come up with some non-routine activities. For example, if he smokes a lot while drinking, avoid going to bars with him for the next couple of weeks.
posted by alphanerd at 2:29 PM on April 29, 2011

My boyfriend quit smoking a month before I did. It was the "no kiss for an hour after a cigarette" rule that did it for me. That, and he was extremely sympathetic to the nic fits, we didn't go out to bars for a while, and he congratulated me every night before we went to bed. I haven't had a cigarette since the winter of 1997.
posted by KathrynT at 2:35 PM on April 29, 2011


It works really really well as long as you don't encounter suicidal behavior (I never have, but a coworker started feeling odd and discountinued due to the effects) it really works.
posted by handbanana at 2:56 PM on April 29, 2011

Do whatever you can to reduce his anxiety and help him relax. If you've never been through nicotine withdrawal, you don't know how psychologically and physically stressful it can be. I've often heard that it's worse than heroin withdrawal—I don't know whether that's true, but I wouldn't be surprised.

I finally quit by using the patch, and I highly recommend it—it makes the cravings go away completely, but you have to follow the schedule and use it consistently, and I know people who don't like it at all. If he goes this route, then help remind him to put it on every morning, and to carry spares in his/your wallet in case he does forget.

As far as specific things you can do to make it easier for him: his needs will depend entirely on his personality and his withdrawal experience, and may vary from moment to moment. (It's a bit of a roller coaster—he might have things under control one moment, and be convulsing with anxiety the next.) If he's receptive to a massage, give him a massage. If he's receptive to a cup of chamomile tea, make him one. If he wants to be left alone, leave him alone.

Try to keep the environment quiet and laid-back, rather than loud and busy.

Expect his appetite to increase. Keep some extra snacks around. Keep him hydrated. Caffeine is best avoided—don't tempt him with it.

Yes, exercise helps a lot—it's a great way to burn off the anxiety. I like hiking, but YMMV.

Getting rid of all traces of cigarettes is a good idea, too. I'd go as far as vacuuming up ashes and laundering smelly clothes/textiles.

Forcing yourself to wait 10 minutes when you feel a craving is a tried-and-true technique. Cravings usually disappear within that time—or at least you have a chance to think about it and realize that it's not worth it.

If he does slip up and have a cigarette, it's not the end of the world. He just needs to recognize the mistake and get back on the wagon. Quitting isn't something you can do all at once and be done with. You're quitting every moment of every day until you rid your system of the addiction, which takes months (but does get easier after the first days and weeks).

If he's a drinker, encourage him to avoid alcohol and bars for a while. Drinking is a huge trigger for most smokers. The urge to light up when you taste or smell alcohol is overpowering, and it weakens your willpower and your judgement to boot.

He'll have to learn how to drink without smoking eventually, but it's better to do that in a few weeks, when the worst of the withdrawal has tapered off.

A daily reward isn't a bad idea, if you can think of something he'd like.

Remind him that he's not just quitting to benefit his future self. Quitting will make his life better right now. He'll have more energy, sleep better, be generally less anxious, be able to eat better (and taste and smell things better), save money, not have grody yellow teeth, get sick less often, won't have to stand out in the cold in the winter, will be setting a better example for the children in his life, etc. etc. etc. It helps to make a list of all the benefits, and keep it in your wallet.
posted by ixohoxi at 3:10 PM on April 29, 2011

I'm going to let you in on a little secret. You can pretty much get whatever you want out of a man through blowjobs*.

So, I'd suggest coming up with a formula that is something like, for each day (or number of days) he goes without smoking, he gets to wake up to a blowjob. You can come up with special bonuses like, for every 5 days consecutive, or something, he gets a blowjob card redeemable anytime. Or whatever.

Personally, I would find a woman who was giving me incentives much easier to love than a woman who withheld things from me as a disincentive. Also, blowjob = no withdrawal crankiness!

* Unless you're no good at blowjobs.
** Now I wish I smoked.

posted by danny the boy at 3:12 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ah, this thread hits close to home, as I am on day 21 of not smoking. My hubby has been basically avoiding me, which I guess is one way to deal with my withdrawal-bitchiness, but here are some things I wish he would do:

- Tell him often how proud you are that he hasn't smoked.
- Rather than the "no kiss" rule, use positive reinforcement. When he hasn't had a cigarette that day, comment on how good he smells or how much nicer it is to kiss him.
- Buy him a goody bag of things to help with cravings. For me, I went to the store and bought a zillion different hard candies/mints/gum, etc. until I figured out what worked for me (Jolly Ranchers), and now I'm buying them in bulk.
- And yeah, he's gonna be a bit of a whiny bitch for a while if he's anything like me. I was SO MISERABLE for the first week and it felt like everything in life just SUCKED AND WAS TEMPTING ME TO SMOKE OH GOD! Really, the attitude will taper off in a week or 10 days, so just don't take anything personal and don't get up in his grill if he's snippy with you.
- Have a few activities in your back pocket. He may get antsy and having something to do, quick or lengthy, may help (as long as it doesn't involve long drive, bars, or whatever his smoking triggers are). Maybe walk to a snowball stand, do a crossword puzzle, a few rounds of Wii Boxing, whatever, just something to take his mind off the mind-altering cravings.

Good luck to both of you!
posted by tryniti at 3:20 PM on April 29, 2011

Use nicotine patches or gum. Let him get over the psychological addiction to the ritual of lighting a cigarette, smoking it, feeling the smoke hit your throat.

Then taper of the patches/gum to get off the physical nicotine addiction.

Don't pressure him. Congratulating him regularly and the concept of a safe-word when he's being bitchy sound like good ideas.

Disclaimer: I'm someone who hasn't yet managed to give up smoking.
posted by Diag at 3:22 PM on April 29, 2011

I used the gum and it was really helpful. It doesn't cut the cravings - it helps abate the NEED. At the end of the day, it's just discipline. We can only quit if we want to.

I also found that not giving myself the option of falling off the wagon helped. I wasn't "trying to quit" - I just didn't do it anymore. Each time we cave into the craving makes it that much more difficult to stop for real because it's effectively starting over again from a craving standpoint. The only way to stop the cravings is to fight through them. It's not willpower, it's discipline.
posted by crankyrogalsky at 3:43 PM on April 29, 2011

Nthing the Easy Way, it worked really, really well for me and I was able to quit cold turkey after having smoked a pack a day for 7 years (and haven't smoked since, going on 4 years now). In my experience, tapering or nicotine replacement makes things harder; your body just gets addicted all over again every time you smoke or chew the gum, so you're basically drawing out the torture and making yourself think about cigarettes all the time. I found it much easier to go cold turkey and just stop thinking about cigarettes altogether.

When I quit, I was a weepy mess for a week, kind of bitchy for another week, really hungry the third week, and just fine after about a month. It felt fantastic to quit smoking: within a week, my sense of smell improved, my singing voice improved, my recovery time from athletic activity improved, my stamina improved, my sleep improved (and I saved a bundle of money to boot). I felt like a whole new person.

Really, the most powerful idea in the Easy Way book is that the feeling you get when you smoke is how non-smokers feel ALL THE TIME. When you talk to him about it, generally try to focus on what he's gaining, not what he's giving up (or why he is gross).
posted by dialetheia at 3:53 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

When I quit, I found it easier NOT to be reminded of cigarettes. Any mention of cigarettes or quitting made me want a cigarette.

(Oh, and I used the lozenges.)
posted by orthogonality at 3:55 PM on April 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Stay away.
I've dealt with two exes, a friend and a roommate while they tried quitting.
They were irritated at everything for about a month. Even if i tried to be nice;stay out of the way, it was still difficult to deal with them. So, just be ready for that.

My grandmother and uncle just quit cold turkey and said they were fine, though.
Except uncle gained about 50 pounds afterwards... and one of my exes gained about 20 pounds after a few months. So, that may happen too.

Two used the patch and that worked... they started smoking again a year later.

I guess just have extreme patience if he seems to take things out on you.
Unshelled Sunflower seeds are good to keep hands busy rather than smoking. My dad did that for a while.

And just mention how much money he'll be saving.

Witholding kissing, sex and anything else is patronizing and would piss me off... but maybe it would work for others.
Also saying its disgusting to kiss your SO if you dated him knowing he/she smokes is rude IMO.

Im a smoker and refuse to date non-smoker even if they say its okay. I just feel off with non-smokers. Its obvious they all care to a degree.
posted by KogeLiz at 4:01 PM on April 29, 2011

My ex S.O. just quit smoking (2nd time, hopefully it will stick) so your question's very timely. The first time he quit, his brother and I made a bet with him that he couldn't quit in 2 months. He'd lose $20 to each of us or we'd have to buy him a couple DVDs. He's a movie junkie so this really motivated him. YMMV.

This time, he spaced out the time between smokes and gradually decreased over a couple months. I encouraged him to keep track of the money he'd been using to buy cigarettes and at the end of the week, use it for something you normally don't have the money for. It really started to make an impact about halfway through quitting and it felt like rewarding himself for making progress on quitting.

Get some sunflower or pumpkin seeds for him to snack on. They help decrease cravings. Compliment him on cutting down and don't give him a hard time if he slips up. I'd just say "You've been doing good. Keep at it" If he has allergies, stock up on anti-histamines, Quercetin, etc. I saw some program a few years ago that said smoking messes with the mast cells that produce histamine in your nose. This seemed really true with my ex and was why he started smoking again a few years ago (after 2 years smoke free). He hasn't smoked since April 1 so I think it's going to stick this time. He's doing the nicotine gum and is almost off. He said the peppermint flavor was good. Best of luck to you and your boyfriend!

(citing a study so people don't think I'm making this up about allergies)
posted by stray thoughts at 4:05 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Set a birthday. Celebrate a month. Celebrate two months. Talk about superstitious, semi-scientific stuff.. like it takes 21 days to form a new habit. Be friendly. Be kind. Encourage him to talk about his feelings.

I swear, there is no upside to smoking. Getting through the past few weeks and months was the hardest for me. The rest... is self-explanatory. Why was I a smoker? I can breathe now, smell things, and I've lost a lot of weight and go to the gym daily.

Also, I found an iPhone and installed it on my phone called MLC. It's pretty cute. I go back to it when I want to remember exactly how many days I have off smoking (243 days), and to look at graphical representations of how my lungs and brain are doing, and how much money I've saved. In 243 days, I would have smoke 4874 cigarettes. Unbelievable.

I also want to say I tried Chantix many times, and it did work for a while but not for the long run. While I'm sure it works really well for others.. the answer doesn't have to be in the form of a pill.
posted by phaedon at 4:22 PM on April 29, 2011

Boyfriend smoked Camel Wides for 10 years. He started using an electronic cigarette January 1 and hasn't touched a cigarette since, saying he hasn't even craved one. I realize that this isn't technically "quitting smoking" but it fulfills the oral fixation (the "habit" of smoking that is so hard for people to shake), as well as the nicotine withdrawals that come with quitting. In his situation it is meant to be the step BEFORE quitting altogether. (He didn't think he could do it cold-turkey). It would be a good way to begin weaning himself off, because it actually gives you MORE nicotine than a regular cigarette (without all the other nasty chemicals); because of this, my boyfriend finds that he doesn't use it as often as he would being smoking cigarettes. Plus, it's totally odorless and you can get it in any flavor you can imagine (I actually kind of like it because it makes his lips taste good!) Finally, it's super cost-effective--a starter kit is under 100 bucks and the refills are super, super cheap. (Compared to what your guy would be spending on cigarettes, it pays for itself in about 3 weeks).
posted by lovableiago at 4:24 PM on April 29, 2011

I asked my boyfriend to quit when I started dating him (he also wanted to quit for a while but hadn't felt motivated). I am really easy-going so I left his crankiness wash over me without taking it personally or escalating it. I did not do anything I felt he would perceive as negative - critising, nagging or withholding affection. instead I gave him a LOT of positive reinforcement including indulging a few of his (non-destructive) vices well above and beyond what would be considered normal as he could not afford them himself. I avoided bringing him into situations that would tempt him and instead we kept ourselves very busy with a lot of other activities. He went through withdrawal pretty easy and quickly and has not puffed in fifteen years. Good luck!
posted by saucysault at 4:35 PM on April 29, 2011

my boyffrind has quit for 4 months now, and he's doing great - he uses the electronic cigarettes, which are fun and smell nice, and he's also been using patches. having both might seem like a bit of overkill, but he really loved smoking. I've been as understanding as possible about grumpy moods, and have kept him suplied with patches.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 5:41 PM on April 29, 2011

Nicotine patches helped me a lot. Tapering off the dose.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:50 PM on April 29, 2011

Well, to play devil's advocate - don't let him feel bad if he's not suddenly seeing all the upsides to quitting. I had read all the things that said I would taste food better and feel better and blah blah blah. 21 days in, I can tell you, I'm not seeing any of that, and it's hard to fight off the craving based on results you aren't seeing.

In fact, my first 2 weeks were miserable, more physically than mentally. I started coughing, a lot, when I never had a smoker's cough before. I had a sore throat for almost a week, and I actually developed canker sores all on the inside of my mouth for about 4 days. It was at that point that I almost broke...surely smoking is better than feeling like I have the flu and having a raw mouth, right? Smoking cessation can hit everyone differently...for me, my smoking was effectively killing off all the bugs that I was breathing in every day. Quitting made me super susceptible to getting sick, on top of the fact that I was coughing up 15 years of crap and irritating the hell out of my upper respiratory system.

Anyways, too much detail, but my point is, he may not only be irritable, he may also truly feel like shit. Think of it more like detox and act accordingly.
posted by tryniti at 7:03 PM on April 29, 2011

Does he want to quit? If he doesnt, that is a problem. I finally wanted to quit and did so 2 + years ago. i looked up pics of people dying from lung cancer online, the pics were so gross, disturbing and horrifying - it really nailed it for me. I printed some of these pics and put them on the wall. i then printed an article about the hundred some-odd chemicals in cigarettes and posted that too. I bought the nicotine gum which was great and did this florida quit line where you can call and speak to a counselor if you feel like you are going to jump ship. they also provided for free weekly counseling sessions during the first few weeks. Mostly, you need to ACCEPT that it is going to be hard and uncomfortable for a while and then just deal with that. I highlight the word accept because to me it was the essence of things - because i WANTED to quit I was able to accept the out of comfort zone experience. also agree with someone above who mentioned to get away from all things you associate with cigs - i hung out in a different room at night than I used to, I started making lots of cups of tea to avoid coffee or beer, I went for walks, I cried. It can be done if you make the commitment. I would play pretend games in my mind as though I had been told by a doctor that I had to quit or I was going to die. Some xanax helped too. Cliche as it may be, best thing I have ever done, I am not chained any more to something that was controlling me, it feels so freeing.
posted by cerebral at 8:00 PM on April 29, 2011

I was encouraged to try an e-cigarette by my non-smoking husband. So I got one, thinking "what the hell, this might work." Five months later, I'm tapering off the e-cigarette a bit, but I still enjoy it. And I haven't wanted to smoke a "real" cigarette since a few days after I started using it, which blows my mind because I smoked those things for 20 years.
posted by runtina at 8:11 PM on April 29, 2011

Just support him. Tell him how well he's doing and how you know that it's not the easiest thing to do. Then reaffirm how easy it's been for him! For example, how many times he's been able to say 'no' when he knows he'd 'feel better' if he just had a drag.

Point out when something positive happens as a result of quitting smoking- for my husband this included "Wow, it's really great to have an extra bit of money so you can buy x without feeling guilty or going broke" or "Wow, you just ran y kilometers? You couldn't make it around the block before, I'm so proud of you.", or "You smell so good.".

Encourage him to use small rewards to reinforce his plan, at a reasonable frequency. I got myself some small things (<>
Best of luck to you and your bf. It's hard to be the emotional punching bag when someone close to you is cranky and desperately wants a smoke. Look out for yourself too!
posted by sunshinesky at 8:30 PM on April 29, 2011

I got myself some small things (under $50) for 1 month and 6 month, then I promised myself 10% of what I'd saved for my one year anniversary- that amount ended up being too high to justify with the cigarette prices here (imagine?), but I did spend about a hundred dollars for my 1 year.
posted by sunshinesky at 8:32 PM on April 29, 2011

Say he can have sex or cigarettes and leave the choice up to him.
posted by joannemullen at 9:29 PM on April 29, 2011

One of the few things I enjoyed while quitting was getting my sense of smell back (4-5 days in). Have some sweet smelling flowers or incense around the house, or take him out/cook his favourite meal so that he can enjoy smelling (and tasting) things properly again. Don't say anything about it though - he'll realise that his sense of smell is returning without any prompting, and like others in this thread, I found that talking about smoking/quitting just made it harder.
posted by sleep_walker at 5:26 AM on April 30, 2011

Unless he has specific requests of you, stay right out of it - his cross to bear. When I quit last time, any comment at all about it from the wife just pissed me off. It has to be for him, not you.
posted by Meatbomb at 11:41 AM on April 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

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