Helping break a spouse’s smoking addiction cycle

Helping break a spouse’s smoking addiction cycle
When I first met my wife she didn’t smoke though she once did. Recently she has taken up smoking again without telling me about it, I just started noticing the smell, and it’s really upsetting me, it has a huge impact on me and our family and I am so worried about her health, but she doesn’t seem to want to give up. What should I do?

It’s understandable that you are upset, especially as your wife didn’t smoke when you first met and for many people smoking can be a deal breaker. I know it is hard not to take this personally but it is important to try and be a little bit dispassionate and understand how truly addictive smoking can be. Was there something that triggered her smoking again and can you start from there?

Although it is clear you are worried and want her to quit out of love, she still has to be the one who wants to quit. No amount of telling an addict will give them the will power they need to break the habit. What will help is approaching her in a non-confrontational and non-judgemental way. I am sure you feel hurt she seemed to start smoking behind your back, but it is quite likely that the old habit crept back up on her. Perhaps a hidden difficulty or event meant she started having one or two cigarettes a day and slowly that number increased until it had gone back to how it was before she quit smoking.

If you go on the attack it is likely she may dig the heels in more. There are useful resources like which will direct you towards various programmes and resources not just for your wife but for you too. It will help you to understand things like withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Your job is to try and eliminate the trigger that started her smoking again and be as supportive as possible. An important role as a husband when your wife falls down is to be the one to help her up again, not make her feel even worse while she is struggling with something as difficult as an addiction to smoking.

I do think it is perfectly reasonable to set ground rules, like no smoking around the children. Your house should be a smoke-free zone with nothing like ashtrays or any smoking reminders around the house.

You might be tempted to push an ‘all or nothing’ approach but this will be counter-productive. You have to resist any temptation to try and nag the addiction away – it won’t work! Instead you can help as much as you can, making sure she is eating and sleeping well, do lots of nice things together as a family to help keep her mind off smoking, organise treats with money saved from not buying cigarettes, and be a source of encouragement taking it day by day.

And even when she might be snapping at you as the nicotine is leaving her system, always respond with love.