Monday, August 5, 2013

The Biggest Mistake When Motivating Smokers to Quit

A friend and I were at the park when a young man approached us and said: "Can I bum a smoke?"

My response was, "Boy, did you ask the wrong person. I help smokers trying to quit. Do you know why someone your age shouldn't smoke?"

"Yeah, I know..... cancer.", he said defiantly.

"No that's not why. Smoking is the major cause of impotency. Do you want to be able to have sex for the rest of your life?", I said.

After the young man wandered off, my friend said he disagreed with what I said. He went into great detail of what motivated him to not start smoking when he was young, which was a huge fear of getting lung cancer.

Ask anyone who has never smoked and they can list their reasons for not starting to smoke. This list is always about the consequences of smoking but it is a huge mistake is to think these are the same reasons why people will quit. After all, they have already started smoking--it's too late for prevention.

Never-smokers have never experienced the enjoyment and benefits of smoking so they only look at the consequences. Yet every smoker knows about lung cancer and has already weighed the future, maybe it-won't-happen-to-me consequences against their current enjoyment of smoking. The future threat of cancer won't motivate them to stop.The reasons to quit smoking are totally different than the reasons to not start.

To effectively motivate someone means their reasons to become smoke-free have to be more important than their reasons to continue smoking. Nobody wants to give up something they enjoy unless there is some more important to them. Besides, every time they see their doctor, he listens to their chest and says, "Your lungs sound fine to me."  A smoker hears that statement to mean he isn't at risk for lung cancer.

I knew I only had a few moments with this cigarette-bummer, so I gave him a reason that might be more important than a cigarette because I don't know of any man in his 20's that doesn't think sex is important. I will never know whether my words had an effect on him but I planted a seed because he hesitated  for a very long time before he answered me, "That's what Viagra is for."

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