Carolyn Hax: Can't help friend to stop smoking

Carolyn Hax:

April 22, 2013 

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Carolyn: A dear friend of mine is pregnant, which is fantastic news. She also smokes. She has cut way down since she got pregnant, which is great.

She is incredibly sensitive about it. When people ask her about smoking, it makes her extremely anxious and actually seems to make her want to smoke more. She KNOWS she needs to quit, so continually telling her that will not work. What can I do that will encourage her to stop smoking, but not put her on the defensive?

FRIEND

She needs to stop smoking, yes. She also knows she needs to stop smoking, has cut back on her smoking, presumably has a doctor or midwife to guide her ongoing effort to stop smoking, and gets so rattled when people bring up her smoking that she possibly smokes more.

So, what's your role here? None, unless backing off counts.

Re: Friend: Unless you're talking about telling her how proud you are of her progress, acknowledging how hard it is to get over an addiction, and offering help when she gets the urge by going out for a walk with her or offering other distractions?

ANONYMOUS

Those work for me, thanks, but only if they work for the smoker. Trying them must include careful attention to how they go over - specifically, to whether she sees these efforts as patronizing, as veiled pressure or as triggers for wanting a smoke.

Re: Friend: Do some research on smoking-cessation programs geared toward pregnant women and share the results with your friend.

ANONYMOUS 2

Ack, no, please don't. Smoking is bad for a fetus, but it doesn't render an adult woman incompetent. She can look into programs herself. First rule of help: Don't provide any that people haven't requested and/or they can easily tend to themselves.

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