My husband is 40 years old and smokes 25 cigarettes a day. He’s type two diabetic and has high blood sugar. I have been trying to get him to quit smoking for the past 16 years. He says all the right things and gives me hope that he will change, but then never does.

I can understand how worried you must feel. Your husband’s clear disregard for his health must be deeply concerning for you and 
I understand your frustration. It’s hard to stand by and watch someone go against medical advice and continue down the damaging path, deaf to the pleas of loved ones to stop.

However, there is only one person who can make that change – your husband. I get many enquiries from partners of smokers, desperate to find a solution that will make their loved ones quit, but until that person really wants to stop, there is little you can do.

In fact, evidence shows that the more pressure you put on smokers to comply, the more likely they are to do the opposite. This is called unconscious defiance and it tends to stem from the fact that people don’t really like being told what to do.

Let’s not forget too that smoking is a powerful addiction and quitting involves a combination of physical, psychological and social transformation. It is likely that your husband sees this as a huge mountain to climb. He probably just can’t picture himself as a non-smoker and fears the feelings of withdrawal and the inevitable changes it will bring about to his life.

Having helped many, many smokers to quit over the years, what I am certain about is that scare tactics often fail to hit the mark.

It sounds strange, but I think the best way you can help your husband is to gently persuade him to let someone else step in.

You are too close to the situation and he is choosing not to hear you. However, were he to see a life coach or stop smoking expert, it would enable him to see the issue more objectively and come to his own decisions about his health. They will allow him the space to examine his feelings and behaviour with the emotional detachment this difficult situation invariably needs.

All you can do is lay the groundwork for change by suggesting that he give this kind of therapy a try and be there to support him if he make that choice.