Can we help a person quit when they are pretty sure they don't want to quit?


September 28th, 2001, 6:50 pm#1

Over the years I have seen numerous members thrust into my program, totally against their wills who still manage to succeed in quitting smoking. I had two in the last clinic who clearly stated they did not want to quit but were forced in by parents. Other people are forced in by doctors, some people have even been tricked into coming to my seminars by family and friends who told them they were going somewhere else and literally brought them to the room under some form of false pretense. While I won't say this tactic works in the majority of cases, it works a lot more often than most people would think.

To say that these people had no prior motivation or desire to quit would probably not be true. I suspect most smokers have some level of motivation to quit, but motivation without understanding isn't enough to succeed. That is what I try to do in the first session of a clinic or in the single session seminars. I try to cram in four areas of understanding, all of which I think are crucial for the smoker to understand if they are going to have a good shot at success.

The areas I try to cover are why they smoke, why they should stop, how to quit and then how to stay off. I think these four areas are crucial points of understanding, without having a firm grasp of each component, the smoker is handicapped in his or her efforts.

Understanding why he or she smokes help the smoker see that all the magical qualities associated with smoking are false feelings. While most smokers think they smoke because they want to, the real reason they smoke is because they have to. Their bodies demand it. They are drug addicts, plain and simple and understanding this premise is the crucial first step. As with any other addiction or 12 step program, the premise of being powerless over the drug is the first step in recovery.

I want them to recognize that while they thought smoking was keeping them calm, it was actually increasing their stress levels, or more accurately, their reactions to stress. While they thought smoking made the energetic, it in fact robbed them of endurance and energy. That it made keeping their life style fun and active, it was actually robbing them if ability to do many things and was in fact putting every activity and relationship at risk. That it was at their core of their ability to be an active member of society, it was in fact causing them to resort to many antisocial behaviors, leading them to smoke in lieu of human contact or even leaving gatherings because smoking was not permitted.

Why they should stop smoking is probably the least surprising to most people, they already know smoking is bad for them, but most people don't recognize how bad it is. Many people are blown away when they realize the full magnitude of the dangers from smoking. While I don't spend a great quantity of time on the issue, maybe only an hour and a half of 10 hours of presentation time, it is still one of the areas that many people refer back to years later as a major motivating factor to stay off. The recognition that quitting smoking is in fact a fight for very survival is often of paramount importance in long term success, dealing with the occasional thoughts that are still triggered by circumstances and situations faced throughout the ex-smoker's life.

How to quit, now there is a shock to most people, especially after the more reading and research they have done prior to coming to my programs. If they are medical professionals, bombarded by the influence of the state of the art of smoking cessation techniques, what I am proposing is so radical that it takes them a few minutes to overcome the idea that I am out of my mind. After being bombard by study after study and expert after expert, to come out and accept that the way to quit smoking is simply to quit smoking seems ludicrous. It is only when I have them think real hard of all the long-term (one year plus) ex-smokers they know, of how these people initially quit, that they start to realize that the vast majority of these people, and in many cases all of them, quit by cold turkey. It is often like a light bulb goes off in their head for the first time seeing the obvious, even though it flies in the face of conventional wisdom.

Finally, how to stay off, here is another kicker. Almost every piece of professional literature on smoking cessation produced over the last 30 years will bury one line in the text, or sometimes make it really obvious that will undercut the most truly motivated and educated smoker. The line is "don't let a slip put you back to smoking." That makes as much sense as don't let a drink put you back to drinking to an alcoholic, or a heroin addict given the message of don't let a little injection put you back to using. The message needs to be stronger than that, not don't let a slip put you back to using, the message had better be--DON'T SLIP!

There is no such thing as a slip, or an accident, or a mistake, or a puff, or just one, they are all a RELAPSE! This point, more than anything else is what is going to make a quit last. Forgetting this concept, or worse, never knowing it all but assures failure.

I have seen the education of the smoking problem work thousands of times in getting people to be properly prepared to quit. Again, that problem is more than just the physical dangers of smoking. It entails the smoker developing a full appreciation of the physical, mental, social, economic, and aesthetic implications of smoking. I have also witnessed the understanding of these issues to be the tools utilized by thousands of ex-smokers in keeping their quits going as long as they keep the understanding of all these issues at the forefront of consciousness.

So can we motivate a smoker to want to quit? I think most smokers of any appreciable time period is already motivated. If not most smokers in general, any smoker who shows up here for even a glimpse at Freedom is motivated or they would not even have typed in the word smoking into a search engine or followed a link sent by a friend. If they took a peak, there is an interest. Now it is a matter of tapping into that interest and helping them realize that there really is a way out. You have all found it here. Those just starting, listen to those who are here for months and years already. Listen to how they sound about not smoking, the overall improvement of life experienced by most.

Those who are here for months and years now, listen to those who are just joining. Hear the fear and doubt expressed and realize that was you so long ago and how you never want to be back at that stage of your life again. You don't know you will have the strength or sufficient desire or opportunity to quit again if there were another need to do so. For everyone, recognize to quit smoking and stay smoke free, always remember to never take another puff!


Edited 3-2-2014 to include new related video: Can you help a person who doesn't really want to quit smoking?
Last edited by Joel on March 2nd, 2014, 6:14 pm, edited 3 times in total.

Teeisfree GOLD

September 28th, 2001, 8:03 pm#2

If ever you give a smoking cessation workshop/seminar in the NewYork area I have two people to bring-they will not have to be tricked. My best friend and her hubby. She has spent loads of time w/me through my quit and after 6 months has just taken the step to get Zyban.
She and I have tried to stop smoking before , hypnosis,gum you name it we tried it.I have not been too influential but I also refuse to preach I know from experience it is not effective.I make comments,share knowledge and at least twice a month mention how I wish she would join me.She was w/me thru my 4 yr quit that ended w/a single puff-I bummed a cigarette from her.I had hung on to that quit by a thread but it was not an educated quit just something I did automatically after a significant event-as the memory faded so did my resolve.
I have sent her this site but I don't have sufficient computer skills to constantly bombard her w/readings from the library ,that was done to me by Chet Kast and it peaked my interest.
For my friends I think attending a seminar would help-I know they would go -hope you plan on having one here. My particular nighborhood still seems to have loads of smokers not such a common site in the rest of the City.
One of your statements-smoking in lieu of human contact --really hit home.The fact that I don't cut conversations or visits short to flee outside for a cigarette is for me one of the best benefits of not smoking. I couldn't focus on anything but getting away to have my cigarette now It's like a gift I can engage w/others and not have to focus interest on my getaway to have a smoke.

Joanne Gold

January 3rd, 2002, 11:25 am#3

"Understanding why he or she smokes help the smoker see that all the magical qualities associated with smoking are false feelings. While most smokers think they smoke because they want to, the real reason they smoke is because they have to. Their bodies demand it. They are drug addicts, plain and simple and understanding this premise is the crucial first step. As with any other addiction or 12 step program, the premise of being powerless over the drug is the first step in recovery."
Last edited by Joanne Gold on March 28th, 2009, 8:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.


March 18th, 2002, 7:47 pm#4

I see we have a number of people who have smoking spouses, and the odds are great most of our members still have some smoking family members, friends or coworkers. While your quit is for you and you are the primary benefactor--your quit may be influencing others. This article can help you not take your experience for granted--on what to share with people who may turn to you for help at some point. Continue to prove to yourself that there is life after smoking--and recognize that you are proving to others too that they may be able to get this life too if they just understand the importance of knowing to never take another puff!

Last edited by Joel on September 1st, 2012, 6:29 pm, edited 2 times in total.


May 2nd, 2002, 7:15 pm#5

This was actually posted in the Can we enhance a smoker's determination to quit? that is being discussed today, but it was pretty far back and I felt may be overlooked by people who don't go back through all the posts on our longer threads. Just wanted to make sure that people who are pondering the concept on how to help others quit have the information here to utilize when they encounter people who likely want to quit and are just afraid that they can't. The message needs to be understood by all that anyone can quit smoking--anyone. Never start from the assumption that it is impossible for any specific person to quit. Keep in mind, that is what you likely thought about yourself at one time--but no longer because you have proven that even in your case quitting was possible once you began to understand that all you really needed to do to successfully quit smoking was to recognize that to stay smoke free only required committing to never take another puff!
Last edited by Joel on April 14th, 2009, 5:05 am, edited 1 time in total.

OBob Gold

May 3rd, 2002, 3:20 am#6

My wife, Tess, didn't really actively want to quit, but sort of wanted to. She didn't feel she needed to, because she was a light smoker. I emailed Joel, and we spoke by phone. The approach all came down to 2 things. Engaging in the discussion of whether or not it was doing harm at her low consumption levels, and the "give it a try" approach.

The whether or not discussion was simple when I applied reason. Her: "Well, I only smoke so many a day" Me: "And what good do those so many a day do you? Would you be better or worse off without the so many a day?" Etc. Essentially, there aren't any good reasons to smoke if you're honest about the discussion. As long as you shine the light of truth on the subject, tobacco always loses.

The "give it a try" approach had a couple of facets. One, it was a variation on the One Day at a Time approach. The other was as a part of the "am I addicted" discussion. Tess wasn't convinced that she was addicted. She wasn't sure that she wanted to quit. The response was (thanks Joel) to "give it a try". We settled on 2 weeks. "After that, you can do whatever you like. Just give it 2 weeks to see 1) if you suffer withdrawals and junky behavior and 2) if you like being free of them. At the end of the 2 weeks, it was clear that she WAS/IS addicted.... and also that she didn't want to go back to being a slave. In essence, the approach was a trap, and in that it was, 'twas an oxymoron. Trapped by freedom.

She's pushing bronzehood now, after not really wanting to quit in the first place... at least not with her heart and soul. She smoked for almost 30 years. Today she feels it's among the greatest things she's ever done for herself. Every couple of days she says it to me, "I'm SO glad I don't smoke any more."

Cheers, and thanks Joel,



May 24th, 2002, 5:52 am#7

I saw some members looking for information on how to help family members. The odds are everyone here has family members or friends who smoke who you may wish to help. The best thing that anyone can do is set the example that quitting smoking is possible and that there is life after smoking. I'll bring up some other posts on this issue but the way to prove to others that quitting is possible is just by showing them that you have been able to stick to your commitment to never take another puff!



September 26th, 2002, 7:49 am#8

For people afraid of being thrust into a social smoking environment, you should consider that you may actually have more powerful and positive influence on those still smoking than they will have tempting you. Show them that quitting is possible and staying smoker free is doable too as long as you remember to never take another puff!



March 15th, 2003, 6:56 am#9

I mentioned earlier today that I did a program for 600 high school freshman. I ran short on time, didn't even get to do the Palmolive Bottle Demo. I also did not get into quitting smoking, although I got a slide up to www.WhyQuit.Com so hopefully any student interested in quitting may find their way over to us. On Monday the teacher who brought me in to the school said that he would get an article into the school paper about I hope that any students who were smokers may be motivated to check us out. I also suspect that students who are concerned about parents who smoke may be looking in and referring family members to us. This string seems particularly well suited for this purpose.


May 13th, 2003, 3:30 am#10

Today I did a program for 110 sixth graders. There were many questions both during and after the program from kids concerned about their parents smoking. One of the students father had just suffered a heart attack within the past few weeks and was in the process of quitting. I encouraged the group to refer their parents to as well as their siblings and other people they encounter.

I pointed out we try to cover issues at that are pertinent to people who smoke and want to quit, as well as providing materials for people who smoke and may still need a little extra motivation as to why they should quit, as well as for kids who do not smoke yet and want to reinforce their resolve to stay smoke free.

These kids are at the age where they are facing a huge amount of peer pressure to smoke and they need to have solid reasons if they are going to resist this kind of pressure. I am bringing up a few posts that are pertinent to them, and in the event that they do pass along the site to their parents and other adults, I am bringing up materials for these people also.



June 18th, 2003, 10:21 pm#11

One more way you may be able to help someone quit smoking is to email them a link to our new e-book at

John (Gold)

February 15th, 2004, 1:18 am#12

Whose dreams and desires, yours or theirs?
Don't try and make them live your dream of them quitting.
Help them live their own dream.
Recovery must be for "them" or it's doomed before it starts


September 17th, 2005, 6:59 pm#13

While your quit is for you and you are the primary benefactor--your quit may be influencing others. This article can help you not take your experience for granted--on what to share with people who may turn to you for help at some point. Continue to prove to yourself that there is life after smoking--and recognize that you are proving to others too that they may be able to get this life too if they just understand the importance of knowing to never take another puff! Joel


May 28th, 2008, 2:32 am#14

Videos related to talking and dealing with others who may still smoke:
Video Title Dial Up High Speed MP3 Audio Length Created
Telling others that you have quit smoking 2.53mb 7.58mb 4.07mb 08:57 10/17/06
Talking to others about not smoking 5.60mb 16.8mb 6.92mb 15:13 11/19/06
Dealing with people who try to undercut your quit 6.52mb 19.5mb 8.05mb 17:42 11/12/06

July 23rd, 2010, 12:01 pm#15

A free full-text copy of the below study is available at this New England Journal of Medicine link.  The study suggests that your success at breaking nicotine's grip upon your life could very well influence friends and loved ones to follow your lead.

The collective dynamics of
smoking in a large social network.

Journal:  New England Journal of Medicine,  May 22, 2008, Volume 358(21), Pages 2249-2258.

Authors:  Christakis NA, Fowler JH.

Department of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA. [][/url]

Comment in:

N Engl J Med. 2008 May 22;358(21):2284-6.

BACKGROUND: The prevalence of smoking has decreased substantially in the United States over the past 30 years. We examined the extent of the person-to-person spread of smoking behavior and the extent to which groups of widely connected people quit together.

METHODS: We studied a densely interconnected social network of 12,067 people assessed repeatedly from 1971 to 2003 as part of the Framingham Heart Study. We used network analytic methods and longitudinal statistical models.

RESULTS: Discernible clusters of smokers and nonsmokers were present in the network, and the clusters extended to three degrees of separation. Despite the decrease in smoking in the overall population, the size of the clusters of smokers remained the same across time, suggesting that whole groups of people were quitting in concert. Smokers were also progressively found in the periphery of the social network. Smoking cessation by a spouse decreased a person's chances of smoking by 67% (95% confidence interval [CI], 59 to 73). Smoking cessation by a sibling decreased the chances by 25% (95% CI, 14 to 35). Smoking cessation by a friend decreased the chances by 36% (95% CI, 12 to 55 ). Among persons working in small firms, smoking cessation by a coworker decreased the chances by 34% (95% CI, 5 to 56). Friends with more education influenced one another more than those with less education. These effects were not seen among neighbors in the immediate geographic area.

CONCLUSIONS: Network phenomena appear to be relevant to smoking cessation. Smoking behavior spreads through close and distant social ties, groups of interconnected people stop smoking in concert, and smokers are increasingly marginalized socially. These findings have implications for clinical and public health interventions to reduce and prevent smoking. Copyright 2008 Massachusetts Medical Society.

PMID: 18499567

PubMed Link:

August 16th, 2012, 3:47 pm#16

New videos related to helping others

Last edited by Joel Spitzer on August 16th, 2012, 4:26 pm, edited 2 times in total.