Giving up smoking

The role of others in the decision to quit

Many people had no single reason for giving up smoking, but friends, family and colleagues often played a role in the decision to quit. Some people were influenced by the feelings and concerns of partners or close family, others said that being ‘nagged’ by people was counterproductive.

Thinking about others

People often started to think about risks to their own health when they considered the knock-on effects any risk to their health would have on others. For example, Jules and Haseen mentioned the importance of having children and feeling that they wanted to ‘be there for them’. As people got older they tended to think more about the health risks of smoking and wanting to see their families grow up. People also mentioned other reasons for wanting to stop, such as being worried about a family member who had become seriously ill.
Some people did not realise how strong cigarette smoke smelt, and what effect it must have had on other people, until after they had stopped themselves. Lisa even thought of going back to the people who she had smoked in front of and apologising. Caroline felt happy that she could be with her grandchildren without having to chew mints first or have her hair smelling of smoke.

Where and when people feel they can smoke has changed dramatically over the last few decades over and above the legal restrictions. People talked about the effect that cigarette smoke had on others, particularly children, pregnant women or those who were unwell. One of Carol’s major reasons for giving up was to be able to have "full access" to her granddaughter’. Although Keith didn’t smoke around his son when his son was young, he did when he was older – he regrets that now.

Chris gave up when she was diagnosed with emphysema (a chronic lung disease where the air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs overinflate, causing a decrease in lung function) and bronchiectasis (where the airways of the lungs become abnormally widened, leading to a mucus build-up) and, amongst other reasons, she wanted to quit to live long enough to see her grandchildren married. Miles smoked far less because his girlfriend (now wife) didn’t like smoking and he wanted to give up for her. Munir wanted to quit smoking because his wife was diagnosed with cancer and could no longer stand the smell. Chris successfully quit when her daughter was diagnosed with cancer.

Angela’s daughter had quite bad asthma as a child and was always “dead against smoking” but she struggled to give up even though she really wanted to.
Keith’s wife and son had made it “pretty clear” they wanted him to stop, but he said that he used “diversionary tactics”. Later he had a minor stroke and then there was an unspoken understanding that he would stop. Some people, like Caroline, knew their family disapproved of their smoking, so smoked in secret. Tam gave up when she was pregnant, in part because she knew she would “never hear the end of it” from her sister and mother if she was a ‘pregnant smoker’.

Laura knew that her parents didn’t want her to smoke but they didn’t tell her off, and Anna’s mother didn’t want her to smoke but wasn’t a “disciplinarian”.
Peter didn’t think his wife played a role in his decision to quit, even though she didn’t smoke herself. Some people even said that their friends offered them cigarettes when they were trying to stop. Mariam remembered a time when a friend offered her a cigarette after a hard day, and Anna started smoking again because her co-workers were smokers and offered her a cigarette.

Some people’s friends and family didn’t comment or give advice, but they gained encouragement from simply being around someone who didn’t smoke, for example a partner. When Angela moved in with her brother and his wife – non-smokers – she noticed that their house smelt nice and she thought more about giving up.
(Also see ‘Unsolicited advice from health professionals, family and friends’ and ‘Life events and their effect on people’s motivation to stop smoking’).

​Last reviewed August 2018.

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