Easy Way to Stop Smoking

Easy Way to Stop Smoking (1985) by Allen Carr.

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Allen Carr was born in London and started smoking as a youngster when he was enlisted to do his National Service training. Once demobbed, he trained as an accountant, a stressful occupation which led to his hundred-a-day addiction to cigarettes. After several unsuccessful attempts to stop, he finally visited a hypnotherapist who told him that smoking was an addiction, something he hadn’t recognized before. This made him rethink his whole attitude to smoking and accept that he was in the same position as people addicted to heroin or alcohol. That night he went cold turkey and quit his five-pack-a-day habit, a transformation which he later maintained had nothing to do with his treatment session. ‘I succeeded in spite of, and not because of, that visit,’ he claimed. Soon after he sat down to write The Easy Way to Stop Smoking, a book which is said to have helped at least ten million smokers overcome their tobacco dependency. The book topped the non-fiction book charts in nine countries and remains the highest selling book on quitting smoking worldwide, having sold over twelve million copies in more than thirty-five different languages. However, it’s not on the list of stop smoking books recommended by the NHS, which offers its own complementary literature and a free stop smoking helpline. (The comparable service provided by the Carr organisation is charged at a premium rate.)

There’s no doubt that Carr’s method works. It’s built on sound psychological principles, some of which he learnt from a medical handbook lent him by his son. This explained that the withdrawal symptoms experienced when quitting nicotine are more psychological than physical. Nicotine is a deadly drug, but only takes a few days to be cleared from the system. The moment you smoke your last cigarette you become a non-smoker. The problem is that addicts want to quit, but also want to carry on smoking. That gives rise to psychic tension, which leads them to light up another cigarette. Carr taught his readers that they didn’t get a boost from smoking a cigarette, but that they lit up merely to relieve the withdrawal symptoms from the previous cigarette. Every time they did this they perpetuated the vicious circle. The benefits of smoking are illusory. It doesn’t aid concentration and offers no more oral satisfaction than chewing gum. So long as you think that smoking provides desirable benefits you’ll continue to smoke. Many fail because they overstress the difficulties of overcoming their addiction. This sets up a mental state that practitioners of autosuggestion refer to as ‘contrary thought.’ We want to quit, yet our subconscious mind tells us that we won’t be able to stop. When this happens, and there’s a clash between our will and our imagination, it’s the imagination which always wins. According to Carr it’s this fear, and our defeatist attitude, which keeps us smoking.  We need to adopt a positive, optimistic outlook. Quitting is not punishment, it’s the reward for giving up smoking. By following Carr’s instructions, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

In theory the book alone should be enough, but in practice it clearly isn’t, for Carr found it necessary to set up a chain of Easyway clinics. These are all run by ex-smokers, and are to now to be found in more forty different countries around the world. They claim a success rate of more than ninety percent, and have helped celebrities such as Richard Branson, Anthony Hopkins, Britney Spears and Charlotte Church. At the end of the book readers will find a discount voucher which they can use if they feel the need to attend a stop smoking course. The irony of this hasn’t been lost on the publisher’s of this book, which offers a sure fire stop smoking remedy, because they’ve added a tongue in cheek rider, ‘you won’t need it yourself – but you are welcome to pass it on to a friend.’  Why don’t they give their friend the book, which would be far cheaper?

Carr was able to give up his work as an accountant, because the royalties from his books, and the fees from his clinics, brought him a £120 million fortune. Unfortunately he didn’t live long enough to enjoy his new found wealth, for he himself died from lung cancer, twenty-three years after he’d finally stopped his five-pack-a-day habit.

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