A partner's guide

When your partner smokes

Smoking can impact your partner’s health and your own. Here’s how to help your partner quit smoking.

4 min

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More than one in six Australian men is a smoker. Smoking has become less common in Australian men and women over the last 20 years, but it remains the biggest preventable cause of disease and death.

It’s believed that, in general, people smoke to control their feelings. Either to increase good feelings or decrease bad feelings. They may also smoke because it’s a habit or because they are addicted to nicotine.

The more someone smokes, the more likely they are to be smoking because it’s a habit or because of addiction, and this makes it difficult to quit.

Learn more about smoking on our health topic page

The health effects of smoking

Everybody knows that smoking is unhealthy. It harms almost every part of your body and increases your risk of developing a range of cancers, heart disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory conditions, fertility issues, vision loss, dental problems and more.

Some of the health effects of smoking are noticed every time someone smokes, while other health effects take years to appear.

For example, heart rate and blood pressure increase almost straight away when someone smokes, but it takes around 25 years for lung cancer to appear.

This might lead people to believe it won’t happen to them, but up to two-thirds of long-term smokers will die of a smoking-related disease and have their lives cut short by about 10 years on average, compared to non-smokers.

Smokers who quit have some improvements in their health almost straight away, and their risk of some diseases can eventually be the same as non-smokers. 

What you might feel about someone else’s smoking

There are lots of reasons why you might want your partner to quit smoking. You might be concerned about their health, your own health or the health of others.

You might want to start a family and have concerns about secondhand smoke on the baby, or if you’re a female, your chances of getting pregnant. You might just not like the smell. The financial cost might be too much of a burden.

Secondhand smoke is associated with lots of bad health outcomes, including low birth weight, sudden infant death syndrome, respiratory infections and asthma in children, and breast cancer, heart disease and lung cancer in adults.

There’s concern that secondhand smoke might also cause mental health problems.

What you can do about someone else’s smoking

You can’t make someone quit smoking if they don’t want to. They have to want to do it for themselves, but the right support can help.

Share some information on quitting smoking, but reassure them it might take a couple of goes. There’s a lot of information available to help people quit smoking.

The most effective way to quit seems to be a combination of behavioural support (counselling) and nicotine replacement therapy in both slow-acting (e.g. nicotine patches) and fast-acting (e.g. chewing gum) forms.

If your partner is quitting cold turkey, they may go through nicotine withdrawal and experience symptoms like mood swings, irritability, insomnia, anxiety, restlessness, difficulty concentrating and increased appetite.

It’s usually worst in the first 24 to 48 hours of quitting, and you might need to give them some space during this period. 

Not many people who smoke manage to quit the first time they try, but there are more ex-smokers in Australia than people who smoke, so most people end up succeeding eventually.

Learn more about smoking on our health topic page

When your partner smokes

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If you or someone you know needs urgent medical attention.

Call MensLine Australia on 1300 78 99 78 for 24/7 support

MensLine Australia is a telephone and online counselling service for men with emotional health and relationship concerns.

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