Here's an article I wrote for SwiftEconomics reviewing The Easy Way to Stop Smoking, which is easily the best way to stop smoking around. (So much so that I wrote another review specifically for this site.) If you're a smoker, you need to read this book!
Allen Carr’s classic book is possibly the most important book I ever read. I hadn’t smoke that long and I would like to think I would have quit eventually anyway. But then again, I had “succeeded” a few times and had gone back every time. So the fact that this book helped me quit (or as Allen Carr describes it, escape) smoking for good says something in and of itself.
Indeed, at the time I bought the book about a year and half ago the book had over 1000 ratings on Amazon.com and still had a five star rating! That is something I have never seen for a book with that many ratings. It has since fallen to 4 1/2 stars with about 1300 ratings, but many of the negative reviews seem to have missed the mark.
For example, this one:
I wish this book were true. Unfortunately, it is wishful thinking. It does not take into account the actual physical symptoms of quitting smoking. It assumes that all physical ills are psychological, which they aren’t. I am so disappointed with both the book and the reviews.
This ignores one of the biggest revelations of the book; that the actual physical withdrawal pangs of nicotine withdrawal are extremely mild. As Allen Carr puts it:
There is no physical pain in the withdrawal from nicotine. It is merely a slightly empty, restless feeling, the feeling that something isn’t quite right, or that something is missing… (pg. 24)
Those really painful withdrawal pangs actually come from your own mind (after all, your mind, by itself, can make you physically ill). Many smokers go for long stretches, while they are distracted with a game or TV show or whatever and don’t smoke. It’s not like every smoker smokes on the hour ever hour. Often times, it’s certain cues, like leaving the house to go to work or lunch time or when the plane you’re on lands that set off the craving.
As The Power of Habit demonstrated, habits can be strong and ingrained in the most primitive parts of the brain. So what’s necessary to stop smoking, since the withdrawal pangs are so slight, is to change our habits. And this involves becoming self aware of them. Specifically, asking the question; why do we smoke?
Everyone says we shouldn’t smoke because it’s unhealthy and gross and blah blah blah, but it has to provides some benefit, right? Well, no. And most of what this book does is prove that. He shows how smokers attribute contradictory benefits to smoking. For example, the excuses will be that cigarettes help with concentration and boredom as well as relaxation and stress. How could the possibly do both?
Obviously, they don’t. All the cigarette does is relieve the slight physical withdrawal pang. And the brainwashing, as Allen Carr refers to it, takes over. We think we need the cigarettes, so our mind makes us need them and induces the really bad pangs people talk about when they try quit with willpower. So Carr demolishes the brainwashing to leave us with only the slight, easily tolerable physical pangs.For example, one excuse for smoking is that we smoke because we’re bored. Well, what’s more boring than smoking a cigarette? Oh yeah, smoking is boring so it probably doesn’t help relieve boredom particularly well. He has a long list of these types of excuses.
So every habit has a cue, a routine and then a reward. By learning that there actually is no reward to smoking cigarettes, the cues become irrelevant very quickly. In essence, Allen Carr’s book doesn’t make it easier to quit smoking, it makes it so you don’t want to. It doesn’t take much willpower to not do something you don’t want to do.
Other forms of quitting don’t work very well (I certainly tried a few of them). For example, it’s correctly claimed that nicotine replacement therapy doubles the chance of success. But then again, it doubles your chances all the way to 7%. A study in the Internal Archives of Occupational Environmental Health showed Allen Carr’s seminars to have a 12 month success rate of 51.4%. And the book’s high rating on Amazon.com lend credibility that the book does similarly well This is especially true given how it seems the message flew over many of its detractors heads. How many of those that failed just didn’t take the book, or seminar, to heart?
So all in all, I highly recommend The Easy Way To Stop Smoking to anyone trying to quit, err, escape smoking.
Photo Credit: gamepasattic.ca and wikipedia.org
"Every day is a new life to the wise man."
The Righteous Mind
Star Slate Codex
Consulting by RPM