Clear the Air: How to Talk to Your Friends and Family About Secondhand Smoke

The holidays are a time for celebration, connection and catching up with friends and family… and you want your gatherings to go as smoothly as possible. When it comes to smoking and how it affects your family’s health, you can protect your loved ones by having conversations without controversy.

Secondhand smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals – 250 of these are known to be harmful, and at least 70 cause cancer. Even though these statistics are alarming, they aren’t always the best way to start a conversation. Here are tips for having difficult discussions about smoking and secondhand smoke to protect your family over the holidays:

1. Set expectations up front.

Have a conversation ahead of the holidays with smokers in your life. Avoid judgment and encourage them to quit when they’re ready. Remind them that you do not allow smoking inside the house as you want to protect them and others from the dangers of secondhand smoke.

2. Keep it polite.

A polite, respectful tone goes a long way — and it’s far more effective than confrontation.

Try saying something like:

“Can I ask you a favor? Will you not smoke right now? I care about everyone’s health. Thank you.”

Avoid saying something like:

“I can’t believe you’re exposing my family to all of those harmful chemicals. You should be ashamed of yourself.”

3. Be empathetic.

 You can acknowledge and empathize with a loved one’s struggle but still set boundaries.

Try saying something like:

I imagine cigarette cravings can feel intense, but could you wait a few minutes?”

Avoid saying something like:

“Why don’t you just quit already? It can’t be that hard.”

 Also, it’s helpful to let other family members know in advance that the smoker may experience cravings and changes in mood as a result. 

4. Provide distractions.

 One effective way to help smokers dodge cigarette cravings is to provide family activities that keep them engaged.

5. Offer support.

 Every relationship is unique. If the opportunity arises, help your loved ones find the resources they need to quit. Tell them about the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline’s free services, like nicotine replacement therapy and coaching. Then, help them make the call or set up a profile at

Starting these conversations can seem uncomfortable but protecting your loved ones’ health should be your top priority. When you approach them in a way that’s respectful, empathetic and supportive, they’re less likely to escalate — and the outcomes are far more productive. Holiday gatherings are more fun when you clear the air — in more ways than one.


Published by Tobacco Stops With Me on December 4, 2019