Great American Smokeout: A Day (not) to Quit Smoking.
Great American Smokeout: A Day (not) to Quit Smoking.
I was, without doubt, the worst, most hopeless smoker on the planet. Having started smoking in my early teens, by the time I left college I’d become a hardcore chain-smoker. If it was an Olympic sport – my mantelpiece would be weighed down with gold medals.
Eventually, like a 30-something leg-heavy, fading boxing champion it occurred to me, that it was time to throw in the towel. I made many failed attempts to quit over many years – but the one day of the year that I’d never have even attempted to quit would be the third Thursday in November; The Great American Smokeout. In fact, if I hadn’t already been a chain-smoker I’d have smoked twice as many cigarettes as normal on days like that. The same goes for the UK’s ‘National No Smoking Day’ (first Wednesday in March), and ‘Stoptober’ (the entire month of October).
More than ever smokers are tired of being pushed around
Smokers are quite rightly fed up of being told when they can or can’t smoke and the endless lectures and pressure from loved ones, colleagues, friends, and even disapproving strangers in the street are more than enough to have smokers rebel in the face of media campaigns designed to have them quit.
So, does that make events like The Great American Smokeout a waste of time, energy, and resources? In terms of inspiring hardcore smokers to quit – the answer is probably “yes”. But there is another side to the argument. The event certainly exposes smokers to news and information about new ways of quitting smoking. The chances of stumbling across the story of a former chain-smoker like me, who, having failed miserably to quit, many, many times, finally succeeding in quitting with ease might well be “slim to impossible” without there being days when smoking, or stopping smoking, per se is newsworthy.
Telling a smoker it’s killing them is a waste of time
The mistake that most media outlets (and for that matter anti-tobacco organisations make) is focusing on the downsides of smoking in their campaigns. Any smoker with half a brain cell knows that it’s killing them, costing them a fortune, and controlling their lives. Try to tell them about those aspects and they turn off immediately. Quite rightly so – it’s all so patronising and so obvious. Make a smoker experience fear and what do they do? They light a cigarette. It’s entirely counter-productive.
If only all those horror stories about the dangers of smoking were replaced by simple, aspirational, encouraging messages, I’m sure the day would be many times more successful.
Tell a smoker it’s killing them, and they’ll close their ears. Tell a smoker that to quit they need to expend gargantuan levels of willpower for the rest of their lives and the fear and misery will have them reach immediately for a smoke. So why not tell them, what after all is the truth, that it can be easy to quit…just as long as you know how.
I couldn’t believe my luck when I found it easy to quit
When I stumbled across Allen Carr’s Easyway to Stop Smoking and found it not only ridiculously easy to quit, but actually enjoyable, I couldn’t believe my luck. I’d become convinced that it was impossible for me to quit and I’d resigned myself to a shorter, unhealthier, wheezing existence as a smoker and abandoned all hope of stopping. When I quit it was like being released from a lifetime jail sentence and I couldn’t wait to help others escape too.
The best thing was that I didn’t become one of those loathsome ex-smokers who hassle and harangue their friends who smoke. Being a poacher turned gamekeeper meant I never lost sight of what my own life was like as a smoker. The last thing I’d ever want to do is make a smoker feel uncomfortable. I’m still perfectly happy for any friends who smoke to do so in my car. Back in the day I’d be miserable if I couldn’t smoke on a car journey.
Allen Carr’s simple instructions set you free
I think that’s why Allen Carr’s method resonated so strongly with me – his instructions and guidance flew in the face of conventional methods. Rather than hide yourself away from social occasions and friends who smoke he tells smokers to go out, party like normal, to enjoy life, and handle stress right from the start. As long as you’re finding it easy not to smoke there’s no temptation to start again…even when you’re under the influence on alcohol.
So how do you find it easy to quit? You just need to understand why it is you think you enjoy smoking and why it is you think it helps you to relax or cope with stress or to control your weight. Once you’ve been shown how you’ve been hustled into believing those myths that surround smoking – you’re no more likely to put a cigarette in your mouth than you would be to play poker with a crooked dealer.
When is the best time to quit?
Actually, this year, more than ever, it looks like the Great American Smokeout is delivering positive, rather than negative messages to smokers (and their families). It certainly can’t do any harm and the smokers who quit as a result of it make it of worth. But if, like this former smoker, the idea of a national quit smoking day fills you with horror and rebellion, there’s always tomorrow. Or the next day.
From the desk of John Dicey, Global CEO & Senior Therapist, Allen Carr’s Easyway
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