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How to Quit Smoking When Everyone Around You Smokes

June 29, 2022
By Pivot
Group of people sitting outside smoking cigarettes

One challenge of quitting that stands out from the rest is trying to quit when someone close to you continues to smoke

Whether it’s a spouse, partner, roommate, family member, friend, or even a co-worker, facing them can be challenging and uncomfortable. Here are some tips to help you navigate those difficult conversations as you continue to work towards your goal to become tobacco-free. 

Take the risk of asking

People often don’t ask for help because they assume the person they ask might say no. The fear of rejection is strong, and nearly every person worries about this to some degree. But people generally like to see themselves as useful and are often willing to help when asked. 

Before you ask for help, clarify what you need, and be sure to provide specifics. Prior to having the conversation, it may be helpful to jot down a few thoughts so you feel prepared. 

  • Why - Why is quitting important to you and what does success mean to you? 
  • Who - Who do you need help from by not smoking around you? 
  • Where - Where specifically do you need them to not smoke around you? 
  • How - How will their actions help you succeed? 

How you ask is equally important too and can make a big difference! Consider the following when you ask for help: 

  • Avoid making your request sound like a demand.
  • Remain open-minded to their feedback. 
  • If they say no, that’s ok. Respect their choice. 

Remember - just because they don’t choose to quit, doesn’t mean they can’t support you. However, if they say no, it also doesn’t mean it will ruin the relationship. It just may change the dynamic of the relationship temporarily as you navigate your quit journey. In these cases, to be successful, you’ll need to make an effort to set boundaries within these relationships to support your quit while respecting their choices as well.   

Set boundaries in common areas

If people like your partner, friend, or roommate, to name a few, feels unable to commit to stopping smoking around you, then the next step may be to discuss smoke-free zones. These could include your: 

  • Home 
  • Office 
  • Car

Or even asking for certain rooms to have smoking items removed that might trigger you, like: 

  • Ashtrays
  • Lighters 
  • Cigarettes 

Have an exit strategy

Even if the person in question respects your smoke-free zone, sometimes even the smell on their clothes or the sight of cigarettes can trigger you to smoke. In these cases, it’s helpful to have an exit strategy in mind. 

These can include: 

  • Getting active: go for a walk, do a quick 30 min workout, and practice 10 min meditation. 
  • Changing location: go to another room, go outside, or hit the gym   
  • Keeping hands busy: text a friend, play a game on your phone, explore Pivot 

It’s important to have multiple strategies, especially when you feel tempted when others are smoking around you. If you feel tempted, give yourself some grace. Quitting requires dealing with both physical and mental dependence. 

If you feel restless, irritable, or anxious -- those feelings are a normal part of nicotine withdrawal. Take baby steps and give yourself daily reminders of why quitting is important to you, so you can stay focused when temptation arises. If withdrawals become too unbearable, nicotine replacement therapy is a great backup plan. 

Have NRT as a backup

As a backup, if you are in a situation where you're around others who smoke, having NRT on hand can prevent a slip or full relapse. It’s not always possible to avoid being around people smoking. So, if you’re going to be somewhere that it’s hard to avoid - like a party or festival - take some nicotine gum or lozenges with you. 

  • Gum and lozenge: they’re fast-acting and can take care of a craving quickly. Nicotine gum and lozenges come in 2mg and 4mg doses which are about the same nicotine as two or four cigarettes.  
  • Nicotine inhalers and nasal sprays: are also available with a prescription. 

Over time, when the physical cravings are behind you and you’re more focused on changing your routines and habits around smoking, you can start substituting regular gum, hard candies, or mints.

Authored by: 

Shannon Brown MHS, Ph.D., CTTS

Nikki Utech BS, CTTS

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