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What to Do When You Catch a Loved One Secretly Smoking

Everyone knows tobacco is bad; even if it weren’t for the widespread knowledge of tobacco products’ negative health effects, it is nearly impossible to ignore the terrifying warning labels on each and every package of cigarettes, cigars, and chew.

Still, tobacco is addictive, and despite strong desires to the contrary, many people feel the urge to indulge in tobacco frequently. Because of the pervasive anti-tobacco stigma, those who continue to smoke (or consume tobacco in some other way) often feel the need to hide their actions ― even from those they love.

It is not uncommon to discover that a loved one has a secret tobacco habit, but exactly how you react to your discovery could help or hurt your loved one’s future health. Before you confront your loved one, read about the right and wrong ways to discuss his or her smoking secret so you both can live long, healthy lives.

Be Understanding ― But Don’t Be Patronizing

Just because your loved one has a secret addiction, you are not entitled to a superior attitude. Everyone has flaws, and being judgmental of your loved one’s habit will not cause him or her to quit smoking ― but it may cause him or her to quit you.

Instead, you should try to understand all of your loved one’s motivations: to smoke cigarettes and to hide it from you. With sympathy for the situation and support for your loved one, you both can move past the deceit and begin working toward a new, smokeless life together.

Be Positive ― But Don’t Be Forceful

You can easily imagine how much better life would be if your loved one quit smoking ― he or she wouldn’t get sick, wouldn’t stink, wouldn’t spend money on deadly cigarettes ― but your loved one probably can’t. Therefore, it might be worthwhile to encourage the positive images of a post-cigarette life. You might also offer some workable alternatives to cigarettes, such as nicotine gum or disposable e-cigarettes, which don’t have the noxious side-effects of burning tobacco.

However, no matter how positive you get, you should avoid taking any steps without your smoker’s assent. If you try to force quitting on your loved one before he or she is ready, it definitely will not stick, and you will engender resentment and anger.

Be Descriptive ― But Don’t Nag

Usually, a smoker doesn’t know what it’s like to be a non-smoker, so you are absolutely allowed to tell your loved one how his or her habit affects how you live and love. For example, many smokers cannot smell the tobacco on their breath and clothes. Thus, it might be enlightening for your loved one to learn that you avoid hugging or kissing him or her because of the stench. You can also discuss your concerns about health ― but only if you are careful not to let your concerns drone on.

Nagging can be humorous and light-hearted, but nagging about serious topics, like smoking, can counteract any good you do by explaining your feelings and experience. You should try to keep your verbal reminders to a minimum, only opening up about your loved one’s habit when it is appropriate.

Be Forgiving ― But Don’t Use Guilt

It hurts to learn that a loved one has been keeping his or her habit a secret, but you must realize that keeping that secret is equally as painful. Instead of holding onto your fear and anger ― which can drive a bigger wedge in the relationship ― you should forgive your loved one and try to reconcile the distance between the two of you.

However, while you are forgiving your partner, you must be careful to avoid language that makes him or her feel guilt. Guilt makes a person anxious, and when a smoker gets anxious, he or she smokes. Everything you say should work to bring you closer together and give your smoker a shoulder to lean on.

Be Patient ― but Don’t Give Up

Relapses are common occurrences when people try to stop any addiction. Perhaps you have attempted to quit sugar only to slip yourself a cookie after dinner, or maybe you have tried replacing television with books only to absentmindedly switch on primetime. Just because you catch your loved one smoking another cigarette doesn’t mean you both have lost the war against tobacco. Instead, you might ask why your smoker felt the need to light up again and address whatever emotions caused the relapse. Then, you can renew your hope and try again to win a battle against cigarettes.


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