Hotline for nonsmokers may help smokers quit

  • Article by: MAURA LERNER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 15, 2013 - 9:54 AM

Raymond Boyle readily admits that nagging isn’t the best way to get someone to quit smoking. But with a little coaching, he believes, friends and relatives can learn how to help smokers kick the habit.

Boyle, director of research for ClearWay Minnesota, is working with the Mayo Clinic on a study that, he hopes, will turn naggers into partners in the campaign against tobacco.

For the first time, the group is testing its Quitplan Helpline — a free service for smokers — as a way to reach nonsmokers and teach them the delicate art of persuasion.

Boyle said he got the idea from a Mayo psychologist, Christi Patten, who has studied how people help partners fight drug and alcohol addiction. She found that many of the same principles applied to smoking addiction.

“People who have smokers in their life, they’re often pretty distressed themselves,” he said. “They’re really worried about their partner or their friend.”

The researchers hope to recruit 1,000 nonsmokers for the study (www.supportasmoker.com). The volunteers start with a 15- to 20-minute phone call with a Quitplan coach to learn (if they don’t already know) why it can be so difficult for a partner or friend to quit smoking.

Then they follow up with practical tips in a brochure about how to bring up the subject with a smoker. Such as: Ask how he or she feels about smoking. Listen “without judging what they say.”

If they doubt their ability to quit, “ask them to list the reasons why they want to become smoke-free” and offer to help with a plan, the brochure continues.

“The first thing is to remember that you cannot MAKE someone quit,” the brochure adds. It also warns that it’s rare for anyone to stop smoking overnight and common to slip up.

There are reminders, too, that the road can be bumpy. “Be patient with mood swings,” it says.

Ultimately, they hope it will help smokers call the help line themselves. “We’re trying to up the success,” Boyle said. “That’s what we’re after.”

maura.lerner@startribune.com

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