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Our Visit to China

In October 2010, several of our team members had the pleasure of visiting 5 medical universities in China:

  • Jiaotong University, Xian
  • Fudan University, Shanghai
  • Zhejiang University, Hangzhou
  • Tongji Medical College of Huazhong University, Wuhan
  • Guangdong Pharmaceutical University, Guangzhou

We had fun spending time with friends and meeting students and university leaders who are active in the fight against smoking. We shared our Leadership Club with a lot of new people and received helpful feedback and suggestions to make it better.

It was exciting to see how much progress is being made on university campuses in the fight against smoking. We hope our presentations encouraged more medical and public health students to get involved in changing the culture of smoking.

Common Question

During our 2-week visit, a common question asked by students was “How can I get my father to quit smoking?”

I understand the emotion of this question. My oldest son smoked for many years. As a doctor, I knew the deadly poison he was sucking into his body every day would likely kill him if he did not stop. Although I had helped many of my patients stop smoking, there was nothing I could do to make my own son quit—until he was ready. All I could do was support and encourage him and hope he would change his mind someday.

In the next few minutes, I will provide some ideas that might help you lead your father or someone you love to quit smoking.

Two Stages of Smokers

Smokers can be divided into 2 stages and eventually move from stage 1 onto stage 2.

  • Stage 1: They are not thinking about quitting
  • Stage 2: They are thinking about quitting

Determining which stage your father or loved one is in is important. If you wish to be an effective leader, your approach and treatment will be different for each stage.

Stage 1 Smokers

People in stage 1 are not at all interested in quitting. They do not even want to talk about it. There are many reasons why people may be in this stage:

  • Young boys may think smoking is cool and an adult thing to do.
  • Businessmen may be convinced that smoking is necessary to reduce stress.
  • Some people think the body balances any harm caused by smoking. They believe the balance will be broken if they quit and then they will get sick.
  • Others know there is a risk of lung cancer but believe it will not happen to them.
  • Some smokers know it is harmful but believe they have to die of something. And they prefer to die with the pleasure of cigarettes.

Although medical experts know these excuses are not good reasons to smoke, it is not effective to argue with smokers.

If your father is a stage 1 smoker, respect his lack of interest. Telling him what to do and why he should do it will only cause resistance and may make him angry. You cannot convince a person to quit smoking if they do not want to.

Treatment for Stage 1 Smokers

The treatment for stage 1 smokers is education. They need to know smoking is hurting them. They need to know cigarette smoke is full of deadly poison. But do not try to push information down their throat. Instead, leave printed material and pictures lying around the house for your father to look at if he wishes. You might tell him that this is what you read or saw on TV or heard from your university professor without relating it directly to him. Remember that you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink.

Most stage 1 smokers do not want to hear comments like:

  • You should stop smoking.
  • You will die younger if you continue smoking.

At this time, your father does not want you or anyone else to interfere with his habit. He does not want to be reminded of possible health problems. Avoid telling him what he should do. This could make him think you are better than he is. If that were to happen, your father may no longer feel comfortable sharing his thoughts with you.

Instead, show your father you love him even though he continues to smoke. Watch and listen carefully for actions or words that show he might be changing his thoughts. Try to recognize when he enters stage 2. At some time in their life, most smokers believe they should stop smoking. They are often willing to talk about it.

Stage 2 Smokers

People in stage 2 are interested in quitting. Something has made them understand that smoking may be hurting them. We call this a “teachable moment” because they are ready to learn. They are ready for help. This change might be the result of several things:

  • They have a cough that will not go away
  • There is blood in their spit
  • They feel short of breath
  • A friend or relative has died of lung cancer
  • The cost of cigarettes is a concern

If your father is a stage 2 smoker, he may continue to smoke, but has become concerned that cigarettes are bad for his health. Now you have the opportunity to carefully suggest that he try to stop smoking.

Treatment for Stage 2 Smokers

The treatment for stage 2 smokers is encouragement and support. If your father talks about a symptom that worries him, gently ask him to tell you a little bit more. You might say:

  • I will try to get information for you about that.
  • If you decide to quit smoking, I will strongly support you.
  • Would you like me to help you see a doctor?

Be gentle. Do not push. Tell your father that you know some things that can make it easier to stop smoking. Ask if he would like to hear them. Click here to see some stop smoking tips.

My Son

As my son continued to smoke, all I could do was continue to love and support him until he was ready to make a change in his life. Thankfully, after many years, he decided to stop. I do not know how much my influence affected his decision, but I was very happy to help and encourage him. I am delighted to say he has not smoked a cigarette in 12 years.

Leadership Skills

Helping someone you love to quit smoking can be frustrating. But some of the leadership skills we have discussed in previous articles will be helpful. You may want to review 3 of them:

Without these important skills, helping your father or someone you love stop smoking will be very difficult.

Please Share

Please invite your friends and colleagues to join our Leadership Club. All they need to do is enter their email address. By many of us working together, we will make a big difference in the fight against smoking.

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