Action Tips: Talking to Friends and Family About Their Smoking Habit


When you talk to a loved one about smoking, don’t be too pushy or mean about it. Show them that you are genuinely concerned for their and your well being. Quitting smoking is tough so give them some resources that can help them (we list some for you below). Have them sign the Stop Smoking Pledge. If they can’t quit altogether, try to get them to make a commitment to not smoke inside the house. Have them sign the Smoke-Free Home Pledge.

Why Quit?

The benefits of quitting come almost immediately!

  • 20 minutes after quitting: Your blood pressure drops to a level close to that before the last cigarette. The temperature of your hands and feet increases to normal.
  • 8 hours after quitting: The carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.
  • 24 hours after quitting: Your chance of a heart attack decreases.
  • 2 weeks to 3 months after quitting: Your circulation improves and your lung function increases up to 30%.

Starting the Conversation

People have different personalities so you may want to consider catering your approach to the smoker’s personality. Some people react better to wit while others require a smoother approach. Below we’ve listed some ideas for your reference.

Use Sincerity and Concern

  • Suggest taking a walk to spend some quality alone time together. Start a casual conversation; let them know what’s on your mind. Example: "I’m really worried about your coughing …”
  • Tell them about another friend who has either pledged to quit smoking or is helping someone they love to quit smoking.
  • Cook Sunday Brunch and take this opportunity to discuss the issue. Example: "Quitting smoking is unbelievably difficult, but I know you have the strength to do it. I want to help because I love you and I don’t want to see you hurting yourself anymore."
  • Make them lunch and in the lunch bag, include a hand-made card reminding them of how much you care for them and are worried about their smoking habits. Even include Do Something’s fact sheets on smoking and lung cancer.
  • Offer to give up your worst habit in return for their pledge to quit smoking.
  • Write a note in permanent marker on their pack of cigarettes about the risks of secondhand smoke. Check out our list of secondhand smoke facts.
  • Keep track of how often you get ear infections, coughs, and/or have respiratory problems and show them your records the next time you feel sick. Example: Lately, I’ve noticed that my coughs seem to last forever when I’m sick and I’m starting wonder whether it could be somehow related to the secondhand smoke in the house…

Use Humor

  • Leave mints on their pillows every night before they go to bed with a note that says, "Smoking stinks."
  • Request that they buy only teeth whitening toothpaste since they’re teeth have become so yellow lately. Better yet, buy it for them - hint, hint!
  • During dinner, make a joke about smoking to start a conversation about quitting smoking. Example: "The tobacco industry reports that it provides jobs for 57,000 Americans. This does not include physicians, X-ray technicians, nurses, hospital employees, firefighters, dry-cleaners, respiratory specialists, pharmacists, morticians, and gravediggers."
  • Make a Top 10 Wish List of all the things you want to get this year. List "See you quit smoking," as your number one wish.
  • Make a sign to place on your front door saying, "WARNING: You are entering a toxic zone due to excess secondhand smoke. Please proceed with caution!"
  • Calculate and show them the amount of money they spend on cigarettes a year. (Ask them how many packs they smoke a week. Multiply that by the price of one pack – up to $9 in NYC – then multiply that total by 52 weeks in a year). Make a list of all the fun things they could do with that money instead of smoking, like traveling.

Resources for Quitters (the good kinds)

You’ve tried everything you can to get your loved one to quit smoking, but it seems like they might need some extra help. There are tons of organizations out there designed to help people quit smoking. Below you will find a list of helpful places your loved one can go to.

  • 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) is the national quit line and online resource center.
  • The American Lung Association has a comprehensive guide to quitting smoking OR call 1-800-LUNGUSA to talk to a nurse or a respiratory therapist about quitting smoking.
  • Along with tons of great information on this website is a Quit Smoking Action Plan.
  • You can also go visit the website for Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
  • QuitNet is an online community of people trying to quit smoking. It’s a free service that provides expert support, message boards, quit smoking stats, etc.

Center for Disease Control Tobacco Website
Marinette County Tobacco Free Coalition