It’s not easy to stop smoking

Q: I am married to a smoker and I just hate it. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate my husband. He is in so many ways the most sensitive and caring man I have ever met. I simply hate his smoking.

We have of course talked about smoking ad infinitum, and he always tells me that he intends one day to quit, but I have no idea when that day is about to pop up into view. So far, it has successfully eluded my radar.

It seems that the more that we talk and the more we figure out ways for him to quit smoking, the more my husband actually smokes. He has been coughing more than he used to, and at times I hear him rasping for breath when he is coming up the stairs to come to bed. This is serious.

What can I do to get my husband to quit smoking and get back onto a healthy life track?

A: Many of the addictions counsellors whom I have met over the years have told me that nicotine addictions are more difficult to overcome than just about any other addictions.

In my own experience, I have seen a great many people overcome street addictions to heroin, cocaine and alcohol but who nonetheless continue to smoke. That is the one addiction they cannot seem to shake.

Despite the challenge nicotine presents to us, we as a nation have made significant strides against our overall smoking habits.

In the early 1960s, roughly 62 percent of people older than 12 admitted to having smoked. By 2016, that figure had dropped to 16.9 percent.

Isn’t that amazing? More than 45 percent of those caught up in tobacco are now abstaining. Maybe there is hope yet for your husband to give up his own addictions to tobacco.

By the way, he is not alone. Our more recent studies suggest that 70 percent of those who smoke regularly would like to stop.

Your problem is that quitting smoking is something that your husband has to do on his own, and he has to do it for his own reasons. He will not successfully quit if he is just trying to please you, impress his children or brag to the other guys on coffee row.

Once he figures out that his annoying cough is related to his addiction, he will be better motivated to stop smoking.

In the meantime, all that you can do is to negotiate with him for better controls on where and when he smokes.

I assume that by now your family has joined the trend and that he is forbidden to smoke in the house, but do you want him smoking in his vehicle so that you and the children have to put up with second hand smoke? Do you want to share your bed with him when he retires for the evening smelling like a freshly lit cigarette factory?

I think that you and he can negotiate a number of reasonable controls so that where ever his whiffs of nicotine might happen to drift, everyone else is at least protected.

The unintended consequences for the implementation of controls is that once your husband learns that he can to some extent control where and when he has a smoke, he may fortify that confidence he needs to take the final plunge and finally let go of what I am sure he agrees is a disgusting habit.

Jacklin Andrews is a family counsellor from Saskatchewan. Contact: jandrews@producer.com.

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