1. Should you read this book? ...
To find out, do this simple test -
Are you glad you became a smoker?
If you answered ’yes’, you are glad, then don’t read it.
If you answered ’no’, you’re not glad you became a smoker, then don’t be afraid to read it.
It’s not going to make you feel weak for not being able to stop smoking.
It is going to show you how smoking makes you feel weak about stopping.
Look, I have to write all this stuff. You only have to read it.
2. Are you sure you want to stop? ...
If you don’t know the answer to this question, don’t worry about it. They always say, you’ve got to want to stop to succeed, don’t they? You’ve probably said it yourself. Actually, it’s not true. It’s a silly cliché.
You might tell yourself you want to stop, but is that a real want or a ’Well I know I should so I’ll have a go’ sort of want?
Of course everyone will tell you that’s not good enough. ’You’ve got to want it more than that so stop wasting my time and come back when you’re sure.’ That’s the sort of thing they say, isn’t it?
But how can you ever be sure? Sometimes you are, but then other times you’re not. If only you could sure all the time. Well listen, that’s as good as it gets, so go with it. The point being that everyone who smokes wants to stop, at some time. So what can you do to want it all the time? Long enough, anyway, to do it?
Actually, it’s the wrong question (you’ll read a lot about wrong questions in The Little Yellow Book, because asking the wrong questions is usually why people get the wrong answers. For example, the government, bless its cotton socks, asks people if they want to stop smoking and 80% say they do. Oh yeh? Ask a silly question, get a silly answer, that’s what we think.) The right question is why would anyone who’s addicted to a drug that kills 300 people a day that they probably can’t afford and that’s making them unhappy have any doubt?
So here’s a good question for you, and you should answer it before you go any further:
Are you glad you started smoking?
If the answer is yes, then give this book to someone else and bless you. If not, then this can mean only one thing:
You wish you didn’t smoke.
It’s logical, isn’t it? If you wish you’d never started it must mean you want to be someone who doesn’t smoke. OK, now we’ve established this irrefutable fact, let’s ask the other question again, you know, the one that says, do you want to stop?
You see, what gets in the way is the question itself. You wish you didn’t smoke, but you can’t say, without your heart missing a beat, that you want to stop. So why is that? Because, yes, it’s the wrong question.
Asking people if they want to stop smoking is pointless. Even worse, no-one ever asks even that question. They say - do you want to give up smoking? Did you notice those words? Give up? Well, what a foolish expression. No, you don’t want to give up smoking, you want to become a non-smoker. No-one wants to give anything up, do they, because the very words suggest losing something. And that’s the point. Never, ever say give up in connection with smoking, because those words mean loss, and being a non-smoker cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, involve loss, can it?
So where are we up to? You want to be a non-smoker, but you don’t want to go through the process of becoming one. So you don’t try, or you try half-heartedly and fail. Which means you never get to be what you want to be, which is someone who doesn’t smoke. This can’t go on, can it?
Now let’s look at why you don’t want to go through the process.
As you will read, you are on an addictive drug, nicotine (actually, you knew that already). You have to smoke to get it, and you have learned over the years to look forward to smoking to get the drug, all of which translates as being psychologically dependent. So tobacco is controlling you physically and emotionally. Yes, it’s controlling you, you didn’t read that wrong. And to our way of thinking control is abuse.
You are being abused by tobacco, and by the tobacco companies, who are using you for profit, for their shareholders. You’re not smoking for you, you’re smoking for them. Come on, you know it’s true.
So never, ever, have any doubts about stopping. Stop making excuses, like you’re going to miss the enjoyment (you’ll be reading later why it’s not what you think) and believe you are being used. You’re worth more than that, aren’t you?
3. So what’s the problem, exactly? ...
You would be amazed how many people call our national helpline and when we ask them why they can’t stop smoking they shrug their shoulders and say they don’t know.
Well don’t you think that would be the first question ANYONE would ask? After all, if you don’t know what the problem is, how can you hope to solve it?
OK, some people say well if I knew that I would know what to do (kind of sarcastic sometimes), but actually that’s not an answer. Well, alright, it’s an answer, but it’s the wrong one.
The most common reason given is habit, followed by stress and then a whole list of things which may or not frankly be relevant at all, because it’s usually an attempt to answer an unanswerable question.
And then we ask them another question. We say, do you think you’re addicted to nicotine? And lo and behold almost everyone says oh yes, of course, Well isn’t that funny? I’m addicted to nicotine and I don’t know why I can’t stop smoking. When you put it like that it’s an odd thing to say, isn’t it? Can you imagine a heroin user saying I’m addicted to heroin and I don’t know why I keep sticking needles in my arm?
The reason people smoke is to get nicotine. There is no other reason. Now you might not like that statement but that doesn’t stop it being true. You might say now wait a minute, OK, I’m addicted but it’s not the only problem. For example, when I’m stressed I always smoke more, so stress must be a problem too.
Mm, possibly. Or possibly not. Let’s have a look at this. Let’s agree with you - you smoke more when you’re under stress. So is stress a reason you can’t stop smoking? Actually, you’ll be reading about stress later, but for now it’s enough to say smoking doesn’t relieve stress. Smoking creates stress. If you’re not sure you believe that ask yourself this question:
If you succeeded at stopping smoking, would you be more stressed or less stressed?
OK, you think, they’re so clever, but what about habit? Everyone knows that’s why people can’t stop smoking. Wrong, and we can prove that as well. Ask yourself this question:
Do you have any habit you couldn’t change if it were a matter of life and death?
The answer is probably no, so now ask yourself this:
Don’t you find it interesting that the only habit you can’t change just happens to involve taking the most addictive drug on the planet?
We’ll be looking at habit in more detail later, but for now we’ve sort of demolished the two pillars of your belief in why you can’t stop smoking, haven’t we?
There will be all sorts of other reasons, like boredom, or self-hate, or drinking, or social pressure, or just the plain fact that you enjoy it (oops, we’re going to demolish that myth as well later) but none of them is true. Well, sort of true perhaps. For example, yes, you might give in and smoke with friends at the pub having a good time. But that’s not the reason you can’t stop smoking. It can’t be, because it has a resolution. If you can’t stop smoking a drug that’s going to kill you because you give in when you’re at the pub, you will simply stop going to the pub. Yes, we know you don’t want to give that up as well, but it’s missing the point. If it were important enough, you could solve that problem. It’s not that you can’t find an answer, it’s that the solution isn’t important enough. Listen, we didn’t say you were going to like this. It’s not too late to throw this book in the bin. Go on, do it, we dare you.
Seriously now, let’s recap. You are addicted to nicotine, and that has created a physical imperative to smoke tobacco. Because of this imperative, over the years you have conditioned yourself to relieving the craving by smoking, and this has created what we call psychological dependence. What this means is that you believe in smoking.
Until you stop believing in it, you are not going to stop smoking. So don’t throw this book in the bin after all. Have patience and read the rest. Come on, it’s not very long.
4. Just What Exactly is Addiction? ...
First, let’s be absolutely clear about one thing. Addiction isn’t all in the mind. In fact, it isn’t in the mind at all.
You would be shocked at how many people confuse addiction and dependence, even people who should know better. So we need to explain just what addiction means, and how it works, before we can look at the psychological dependence it creates.
Don’t worry, we won’t get very medical. Well, maybe a bit, but trust us, it’s more interesting than you think.
The word addiction is much misused, so here’s a layman’s explanation of how it really works. The simplest way to explain it is to ask you a question:
Can you remember the first time you ever smoked a cigarette? If you can, was it nice or nasty?
The chances are you remember it being nasty., and there you have the key to what addiction actually means. It obviously doesn’t mean something is so nice you don’t want to stop taking it, because tobacco wasn’t nice to start with, was it? So that myth can be dispensed with immediately. You don’t smoke because tobacco is nice. You smoke because it’s nasty.
Confused? Well, you wait till you’ve finished this. No, seriously, it’s not complicated. Tobacco tastes bad, yes, but why is that? Because it’s poisonous. You have an immune system which helps protect you against poisons. You take a poison and it says, hold on, I don’t like this, make them feel sick or dizzy or make it just taste revolting so they stop doing it. Remember that feeling? OK, you overcame it, because you had a social imperative to learn to smoke, but all you did in fact was to teach your body to accept poisons without warning you. That was an exceedingly dangerous thing to do.
So now, when you smoke, you’re poisoning yourself but you’ve conditioned your immune system to let you do it. So far so bad. The worst news though is that the only way your body can read the poisons in tobacco smoke is if you keep taking them. Otherwise, it loses its ability to recognise them. It has to have a database of them stored permanently. And it has a mechanism for making sure you keep the database updated. It’s called withdrawal symptoms.
So in a nutshell addiction is your body’s way of coping with the fact that you insisted on learning to take poisons.
So how can you stop being addicted? It might surprise you to learn that the addiction lasts just four days if you don’t feed it. That’s right, four days. Oho, you say, that’s not true, because I’ve been stopped before and I still wanted to smoke weeks later. Well perhaps you did, but sorry, it wasn’t addiction, it was the psychological dependence the addiction created. Well, you might say, what difference, craving is craving. Actually, it does make a difference, because how far are you going to get trying to solve the wrong problem?
And what about those people who just have an addictive personality? You’re not going to like this but no-one has an addictive personality because there’s no such thing. Addiction is a physiological function of the body. Your personality can’t affect it. You can, however, have a dependent personality. Oho, you say again, what’s the difference? Well, read about that in the section on psychological dependence.
Now try this one - some people say they wore a nicotine patch for weeks and they still wanted to smoke, so doesn’t that mean it’s all psychological? Nope. It means the nicotine in the patch wasn’t the same as the nicotine they usually get from burning tobacco, so their immune system couldn’t read it.
So back to coming off nicotine. There are four ways really. First you grit your teeth for four days. If you haven’t tried it, don’t take drugs to stop smoking before you do.
Or you could have acupuncture, which helps to relieve the withdrawal symptoms.
Or you could take a drug called buproprion hydrochloride (Zyban), an antidepressant some doctors still prescribe for smokers. Or Champix, a controversial drug the NHS relies on heavily, but you really do want to look into the side effects of this drug before to take it.
Or you could have Addiction Neutralisation Therapy, which blocks the receptors for nicotine. This is available only in the Institute’s Phoenix Stop-Smoking Programme.
5. So Why Does that Create Dependence? ...
Because you need something, really, physically need it, it’s not at all surprising that your poor old brain comes to think you can’t live without it.
That’s what psychological dependence means. But make no mistake, dependence on smoking can’t exist without addiction.
Once you are dependent, though, the belief in smoking works its way deeper and deeper into your brain. Into bits of your brain, in fact, you didn’t even know you had. And it’s going to take some winkling out.
The function of any non-pharmaceutical drug is to control the user. It does this for the financial benefit of the seller. It is not supposed to confer any benefit on the user, just keep them hooked so the seller keeps making a profit. It is completely devoid of any morality.
Drug pushers know that once you are addicted (and remember that’s physical) you will keep coming back for more. You do this not because you enjoy the drug, or because you believe it’s doing you good in some way, but because you are afraid to stop taking it. That fear is the inevitable consequence of dependence. It is similar to (but not the same as) the fear a gambler feels that if he doesn’t put one more bet on he won’t win. His experience tells him he hasn’t been winning anyway, but the fear overrides the logic.
An alcoholic buys drink not because she’s desperate for a drink at that moment but because she knows she will get desperate. It is the fear, for her, of the craving that makes her buy her drug. So the addiction creates the belief in the drug. It creates a fear of being without it. It even creates fear of ever doing a programme (for example a stop-smoking programme) and living without it.
So answer this question:
Do you feel fear, anxiety, call it anything you like, about never smoking again?
If the answer is yes (and it quite likely is), then you are psychologically dependent. The need for nicotine has now overridden the intellectual knowledge that not smoking would be better than smoking. It has you in a vice-like grip that has the power to make you reject even the idea of living without it, despite the certain knowledge that it is hurting you - whether that’s your health, or your finances, or even your self-esteem.
Yes, that’s right, tobacco (and indeed any drug) has the function of destroying your self-esteem. That is how anyone controls someone else - by making them lose faith in themselves. You may have noticed that.
The result of all of this is that you’re reading this book, thinking yes, it’s quite right, I agree with everything it says, but you are still rejecting doing anything about it.
You know it’s all true, you know you are addicted, and psychologically dependent, you can see it quite clearly, but you won’t do anything about it. It’s like a rabbit staring at the headlamps of the car that’s going to kill it. Something says run, but it doesn’t. If only some kind person would come and pick that bunny up and move it to safety.
Well, no kind person is going to protect you from your destruction. The only thing that will save you is understanding. Not just the intellectual understanding of what has been done to you,but an emotional understanding as well. You have to have the feeling that this cannot be allowed to continue. That you value yourself too much to let it. Then, and only then, will you run for safety.
All we can do in this book is explain things on the intellectual lever, but we hope you will go on to gain the fuller understanding you are going to need to beat tobacco. For example, we’ll be showing you how it is not the habit that makes you smoke. That the enjoyment you think you get isn’t real and you don’t have to worry about missing it. That smoking doesn’t help you to relax - in fact it makes you more stressed, so you don’t have to worry about being able to cope with life without it.
That’s our job - to explain these things. Tobacco’s job is to stop you believing us. Don’t be afraid to read the rest of this little book. You don’t have to do anything about it, but do at least read it and learn the truth. That can’t hurt, can it?
6. Hold on, isn’t it just a habit? ...
By now you understand that nicotine is a highly addictive drug, and that addiction means you are physically compelled to get a fix.
And you know also that this addiction has created a deep deep belief in smoking to get that fix. Perhaps to the extent that you are afraid of never getting another fix again.
Come on, surely, if you accept all of this is true, habit is about the last reason you can’t stop smoking. Still not sure? Well, we’ll prove it to you.
First, let’s define habit. It means something you do automatically, without having to think about it. In which case, do this little test to see if it’s habit that makes you smoke. Don’t buy any cigarettes. Now see how habituated you are. If you don’t have cigarettes, you cannot smoke out of habit. If habit is the reason you can’t stop, you have now solved your problem. You are now a non-smoker.
It was easier than you thought, wasn’t it? No? You went out and bought some when you got desperate? Why? Because you needed them? Right. Well, we have a word for need, and it’s not habit. It’s addiction.
That’s right. It’s addiction that makes you buy cigarettes, not habit, because no-one is in the habit of going to an all-night garage in February for cigarettes out of habit.. Because you are addicted, you buy cigarettes. Because you’ve bought them, you’ve got them, and because you’ve got them you smoke them - out of habit perhaps, but it wasn’t the habit that made you buy them.
So if you’ve been trying to break the habit of smoking you’ve been trying to solve the wrong problem, and you should realise by now how futile that is. You should be trying to solve the real problem. The addiction.
Overcome that and you won’t need to buy cigarettes, so habit won’t be an issue.
If you’re thinking oho, but what about at the pub, or with a cup of coffee or when I make a long phone call or …or. Well, no, that’s not habit either. It’s association. You associate the pub with smoking. You associate stress with smoking. You associate all sorts of things with smoking, and so you are in the habit of smoking at those times. But it is not the habit that makes you smoke.
Enough said, really.
7. Association - isn’t that the same as habit? ...
No. If it were, we would have told you more about it in the previous section, wouldn’t we?
Association is an important part of the psychological dependence because it fools you into believing it’s a reason for not stopping.
But association doesn’t make you smoke any more than habit does. Yes, you smoke at the pub, or when you’re unhappy or stressed, or with a cup if tea, or after a meal, but so what? It’s a drug that kills 300 Britons a day. Are you seriously suggesting you can’t break those associations?
When you’re about to embark on an effort to quit smoking, something uppermost in your mind is likely to be all those times you would normally smoke, when you will no longer be doing it. It makes it seem like it’s going to be an uphill struggle. But is that really true, or is it just another of the ways the tobacco companies are trying not to lose control of your life?
There are three issues here really. The first is whether you will still enjoy the times when you normally have a cigarette. The second is whether you will be able to resist smoking at those trigger moments. And the third is the danger that you will just light up without thinking. They are all perfectly valid concerns, and we need to take them seriously. So let’s have a look at them in some depth.
Let’s say, for example, that you always have a smoke after a meal, that it’s a particular pleasure. When you no longer smoke, what are you going to do? Aren’t you going to miss it? Well, first let’s consider whether not smoking is going to reduce the pleasure of the meal. Hardly, since you wouldn’t normally smoke until AFTER the food, so obviously the meal itself is going to be exactly the same as before.
Then are you going to miss the cigarette afterwards? Yes (you didn’t expect that, did you?). Of course you’re going to miss it. You’ve been smoking after meals for years, and it’s always been a pleasure. Actually, on second thoughts, it’s not a real pleasure, it’s just the relief of displeasure, because you haven’t smoked during the meal and your nicotine level has dropped. You’ll be reading more about the myth of pleasure later. So what has happened over the years is that you have relieved nicotine withdrawal after each meal and now you think the ’pleasure’ it brings is real. It sounds OK, until you consider that people who don’t smoke don’t need the pleasure.
Now, what about those trigger times, when you ALWAYS smoke? How can you possibly overcome them? Well, it’s a funny thing but you ask anyone who has stopped smoking (really stopped, for say months or years) if they find that a problem. They will say no. They thought it was going to be a problem before they stopped (a bit like you really) but in the event it was utterly meaningless. It’s another example of how the psychological dependence you have on smoking to get nicotine makes you afraid - except in this case it’s made you afraid of something that doesn’t exist, because people who don’t smoke don’t miss it. People who DO smoke think they are going to miss it, which is different. It’s what keeps them smoking. Are you going to let fear of something non-existent keep you hooked on tobacco? Would the fear of ghosts stop you going out in the dark?
And finally, is there a danger you will light up without thinking and become a smoker again? Yes there is, because people do it. But once you’ve read this next bit you will realise it doesn’t have to be like that.
Firstly, you won’t have cigarettes, will you? So the danger is much smaller than you think. OK, other people will have them, and there are tobacconists. But cadging a cigarette, or deliberately going out and buying them once you’ve stopped isn’t an unconscious act, is it? It’s a very conscious act, so just popping into a tobacconist and buying some cigarettes by mistake is something you shouldn’t worry about too much.
Secondly, what if you happen to see an open pack lying there and you just take one? Well, you might. Yes, becoming a smoker again can be as easy as that. Except that there is a natural safety device built into your body that will stop that happening. Everyone has this device. You’re going to read about it later, in the section about staying stopped.
You should be convinced by now that the association between smoking and certain events isn’t going to be the problem you thought it was. If you’re not convinced, you can jolly well read this again until you are.
8. Smoking’s Too Nice to Give it Up, Isn’t It? ...
Oh yes? If you think that, answer this question. Can you remember the first time you ever smoked? Or perhaps the first cigarette after you’d been stopped for a while?
If you can, now answer this. Was it a pleasure you wouldn’t want to miss out on? Now answer truthfully.
The chances are, it was horrible (if not, don’t worry, we’ll explain this later). And if it was horrible then, why is it a pleasure now? That, sadly is the addiction. Addiction makes tobacco, which is poisonous, taste OK.
You almost certainly remember the first cigarette was bad. It made you dizzy perhaps, or nauseous. (If it didn’t, the reason for this is probably because your parents smoked, and you were already adapted to cigarette smoke.) So why did the first cigarette taste so awful if they don’t now? Is it just because you’ve got a taste for them now?
Well, sort of. First, let’s look at the important question of why the first cigarette tastes so bad. You will surely accept that tobacco smoke is poisonous. In fact, it’s about the most toxic stuff you will ever put into your mouth. How, do you think, your body is likely to react to that? Obviously it’s going to taste bad. The nausea and dizziness are symptoms of poisoning. They are therefore supposed to happen. They are normal.
What’s not normal is that they taste OK now. Even worse, it’s not normal that you actually enjoy them now. You went from having a healthy immune system that informed you you were poisoning yourself to one that not only doesn’t know but no longer even cares.
Now, when you smoke, you actually enjoy it (actually you might not, in which case don’t worry about this section). So, given that you’re poisoning yourself how can you possibly enjoy it?
The answer is what you did when you became addicted. The only way you can adapt to the poisons is by teaching your body to accept them. The only way your body can continue to accept them is if you keep taking them, otherwise it forgets how to and reverts to its former healthy state. To ensure you keep taking them it gives you withdrawal symptoms.
Withdrawal symptoms are unpleasant (they are supposed to be, otherwise they wouldn’t work). Relieving withdrawal symptoms is therefore pleasant. It’s not the poisonous smoke that’s pleasant, but the relief of the withdrawal from not getting poisonous smoke. It’s bizarre but it’s true.
In other words, the pleasure of smoking is nothing more than the relief of the displeasure of not smoking. That’s it, period. Think about it. Tobacco smoke is poisonous, so how could it be pleasant? Smoking a cigarette is about as much fun as a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. So why do millions of people keep doing it?
Well, we’ve already got the answer to that, haven’t we? They’re addicted. And because they’re addicted they buy the stuff every day and what’s more they say oh no I couldn’t stop it because I enjoy it too much. Good grief, is that mass hysteria or what?
What it is is control. Control by a few large companies who sell you a lethal drug and laugh at you when you say oh dear me I don’t want to stop smoking because I enjoy it. It’s not you who’s having the fun, it’s them.
Now hold on, what if we’re wrong? We’re not, because being wrong is not what we do, but we know that and you don’t so we have to prove it, don’t we? Well, we can, but we need your help.
Smoke a cigarette. Nice, eh? Now, hold on, don’t wait, smoke another one immediately after it. Mm, not quit so nice, is it? But no, you can’t stop there. Now light another one. Going off it a bit, are we? That’s strange, isn’t it? If one cigarette is nice, shouldn’t two be twice as nice. And shouldn’t three be thrice as nice?
The answer is that the first one gives you your nicotine. The second and third don’t because you don’t need nicotine then. It’s not smoking you enjoy. It’s nicotine.
9. Tobacco - Relaxant or Stressor? ...
Everyone knows that when you’re stressed you smoke more. It’s true, you do.
But does that mean that smoking tobacco actually makes you more relaxed? And if it does, is a drug that kills 300 Britons each day a viable way to handle stress?
Of course, it’s a ludicrous way to manage stress. The only reason you accept the price it imposes is because you’re addicted, which means you don’t have a choice. What makes it worse is that tobacco isn’t a relaxant at all, it’s a stressor.
Imagine this scenario. You’re walking along and right in front of you a little old lady is hit by a car and slammed into a lamppost. Dazed but miraculously not hurt, she lies on the pavement prostrate. Just then, three youths come up and wrench her handbag from her feeble little hands, upon which she lies there gently sobbing. At this point is she:
A. Relaxed? B. Stressed?
If you answered B, now consider this. You’re a smoker, so as you rush to help her the first thing you do is offer her a cigarette. Well, you would, wouldn’t you? Cigarettes help relieve stress, don’t they? She looks at you feebly and mouths, barely audibly, no thank you, I don’t smoke. You, though, know better. You prise open her lips and insert a lit cigarette. Now answer this question. Is this going to make her:
A. Less stressed? B. More stressed?
If you answered B, why? Come on .. you know full well that smoking makes you less stressed, so why did you answer B? The answer is the word ’you’. It makes ’you’ less stressed. It wouldn’t do that for her. And what is the difference between you and a battered old lady lying on the pavement? OK, fair enough, there are some obvious differences. But the one that matters is that you are addicted to nicotine and she isn’t. You have to be addicted before tobacco can relieve stress.
Why is this? Because tobacco causes the stress it relieves. Look, it’s like this. Tobacco is highly poisonous, which you knew, and when you take poisons into your body you suffer a stress reaction, which is what you would expect, because it’s your body trying to stop you doing it. So smoking a cigarette puts your body into a serious stress state. But you don’t feel that, you just feel relaxed. How is that possible?
Well, you’re addicted to nicotine, remember? As an addict you go through each day feeding the addiction. Now each time you put a cigarette out you start to lose nicotine. Actually, that happens very fast, because you breathe it out almost as quickly as you breathed it in. It also escapes through the pores of your skin (that’s what creates the characteristic smell of a smoker). If you smoke say 20 a day, within half an hour your nicotine level is low enough that your immune system is starting to twitch, because it’s looking for more. After an hour it’s sending strong signals to your brain to say it doesn’t like this, please smoke.
This, unsurprisingly, is interpreted by the brain as stress. It has to be, because it’s stress the brain needs to take certain actions, like eating when you’re hungry, or getting warm when you’re cold. If you were freezing and then you came into a nice warm house, that would feel a lot less stressful, wouldn’t it? But does that mean being in a nice warm house is all you need to be stress-free? No, not at all. It’s relative. The nice warm house is much less stressful than standing out in the cold. But that doesn’t mean that being in a nice warm house is going to make your life hunky-dory, does it?
By the same token, what you feel when you light a cigarette is the relief of the stress of the need for nicotine. That’s all. Really. Nothing else. Sadly, over the years you’ve come to believe that it’s smoking itself that makes you feel better. But it was the lack of smoking that gave you the stress that made you feel better when you smoked. Of course, if you didn’t smoke you wouldn’t need the relief. In other words, smoking doesn’t relieve stress.
It’s the absolute truth. You, however, are going to have trouble believing it. That, sadly, is the damage that smoking has done to your brain. It could be time to stop the rot.
10. It’s Not Worth Cutting Down - Is It? ...
This is one of the most foolish, illogical and downright dangerous myths put about by people who should know better.
What they say is:
It’s not worth cutting down because you’ll only go back up again.
And it’s easier to stop smoking completely than do it in stages.
Oh really? How do they know? Are you going to believe this rubbish or are you going to listen to some hard facts instead?
“It’s not worth cutting down because you’ll only go back up again.”
Why? Is it better to smoke, say, twenty a day or ten? If you assume smoking is bad for your health, your finances and your self-esteem, is it better to reduce that damage by half or not? How can any sentient being say it makes no difference whether you smoke twenty or ten?
You might go up again, but only if you don’t care. Remember, you’re smoking to get nicotine, not for pleasure. Learn that, and it all starts to make sense.
“It’s easier to stop completely than in stages”
Really? How likely is that? We had a smoker who said she had been told if you cut down you just have withdrawal symptoms so you might as well stop altogether. It’s not even scientific. You need about five smokes a day to avoid withdrawal symptoms. It’s called the Addiction Threshold. So on ten a day you won’t have withdrawal symptoms.
So how hard would it be to smoke ten a day? OK, it needs thought and effort but come on, lots of people smoke that many habitually, so it can’t be that hard. Oh no, you say, with me it’s all or nothing. Well in that case you might decide it’s time to grow up. This is your life we’re talking about. It’s not a game.
The benefit of cutting down is that you gain control. We have a boring saying that goes like this: If you can’t control when you smoke, how are you ever going to control whether you smoke? Learn to control the psychological need for cigarettes first, and then deal with the addiction. It is, as they say, the appliance of science. (Editor’s note: We don’t have to pay royalties on that, do we?)
11. Which Method Works Best? ...
It’s an invalid question, so we’re not going to answer it. What works well for one person may be quite useless for another.
Because, as you have already read, the reasons people fail to stop smoking differ. So if you want to find the best help to stop smoking, take the time and trouble to ask the real question - why can’t you stop?
If you can’t be bothered, fine. Just don’t come crying to us when you have another expensive failure, that’s all.
And if you’ve skipped the rest of this book to get to this bit, well sorry but it’s not going to mean much to you without the stuff that comes first. Good heavens, it’s not much to ask is it, you know, just go back and read it will you? (If you already have, then sorry about this little outburst.)
So now we get to the bit where you look for the best help to stop smoking. By now you’ve understood why you can’t stop, or why the methods you’ve already tried have failed, or why you’ve stopped but you keep starting again, if that’s your particular problem. Which means a good place to start this discussion would be to differentiate between getting stopped and staying stopped.
If you are good at stopping, then you really can skip the next bit and go straight to the next page (mind you, you do realise that by stopping smoking we don’t mean continually using a nicotine replacement product, don’t you? That’s not stopped, is it?)
If you’ve never been able to stop (which means more than four days without nicotine) then obviously we need to be looking here at some help for the withdrawal symptoms from nicotine. We could tell you to go and try harder because you know the addiction only lasts four days and surely that’s not too much to bear, but we won’t because it presumably is.
There are two treatments for nicotine withdrawal - acupuncture and Addiction Neutralisation Therapy. In addition to those, hypnotherapy uses psychological tools to help you overcome the addiction, NRPs allow you to switch delivery methods for the drug, which might have some psychological benefit while you at least don’t smoke, and then there are herbal cigarettes which will support you psychologically while you withdraw from nicotine.
So it’s not simple, is it?
And there are some people who have never succeeded in stopping at all largely because they’ve never really tried very hard. If that’s you, don’t assume you need any treatment to stop smoking. That, though, isn’t the same as not needing help. At this stage we would recommend that you at the very least watch the videos on the home page of this website, and that you also seriously consider purchasing a copy of The NSCI Stop-Smoking Handbook
If you’ve ever stopped before (really stopped, beyond nicotine) but started again, especially if you make a habit of doing that, then perhaps you don’t need any treatment at all, because they all help with the first part of the problem - getting stopped.
Of course, if you’ve used some help, say nicotine replacement products or hypnotherapy, and you stopped for a good while (in the case of NRPs, after coming off them), then there is some sense in using the same method again.
But for now let’s assume you need to find some technique that will help you to stop. The following pages explain just about every method currently available in this country.
Hypnotherapy is based on the idea that never mind the addiction, you can be persuaded to stop smoking if a therapist can get deeply into your subconscious mind, past the barriers you put up. Does it help with the addiction though?
Well, paradoxically, despite addiction being physical it can do just that. Naturally, it will only do it if you are the right sort of person. Some respond better than others.
And you must see the right therapist. It is too easy to make an appointment with the first hypnotherapist you see advertising ’stop smoking in one hour, guaranteed’. That’s a silly claim, and you should treat it accordingly.
Hypnotherapy, in the right hands, is actually a potent smoking cessation method. It is less successful in the long term, but as we have already said staying stopped is not really a function of the method you used to stop smoking in the first place.
We recommend that you find your therapist through the National Smoking Cessation Institute, so they will not only be properly qualified but they can also provide you with long-term support through NSCI QuitClub.
Nicotine Replacement Products (NRPs)
These products are looked at here as one, because the function is common to all of them. The main difference between them is smokers’ ability to use any given product. For example, some people have a reaction to the patches, or can’t stomach the gum, or find the inhalator hard to use. If you do find one difficult, then it is worth trying other types to see if you tolerate them better.
And we’re not going to differentiate between makes either, because we don’t want to get into trouble if we make one sound even worse than another.
So we’re talking here about gum, patch, inhalator, microtab, lozenge and nasal spray, or any other method that might be devised in future for administering nicotine.
First, then, what is the function of an NRP? Obviously, first and foremost it must support your addiction to nicotine. In other words, it must allow you to get the drug from the product so you don’t need to get it from a cigarette. Clearly this has one purpose - to enable you to break the habit of lighting cigarettes to get nicotine. If the habit is the reason you can’t stop smoking then NRPs are for you.
If you find a product you are able to get on with, the next stage is to stop smoking cigarettes, so you switch the delivery method for your nicotine. The manufacturers recommend a gradual reduction in the dosage of NRPs, which some users go along with but actually a lot of people find they can cut down very rapidly.
The secret is not so much reducing the amount of nicotine you take but coming off it altogether, which means, for example, taking the last patch off.
This is the point at which you must deal with the withdrawal from nicotine. If you’re OK, then your judgment was right - you problem was the habit of smoking. (If you’re not - you need to smoke - then sadly your problem was addiction, but at least you tried, which wasn’t a waste of effort because it helped you to understand why you can’t stop smoking.
If you fail, should you try a different kind of NRP? Research shows that this is not normally successful, because the problem is not the product but what you are trying to achieve with it, and all NRPs achieve the same thing.
Conversely, if you have succeeded with an NRP before then there is every reason to try it again (but bear in mind when we say succeed we do mean not smoking AFTER you came off the product, not while you were on it).
And a word of advice about nicotine chewing gum. This is the one NRP some people seem to stay hooked on. You should not use the gum long term, by which we mean for years. We’re not saying it’s better to smoke, but we are saying you should do something about getting off the gum.
Most GPs will prescribe NRPs, and of course every chemist sells them. There are two helplines you can ring for advice on them: the NHS Smokers’ Helpline and the Quitline, both of which are sponsored by the manufacturers for that purpose, so they know the products better than anyone else.
What are they for? Well, you could say they’re the opposite of nicotine replacement products. A patch gives you nicotine without needing to smoke a cigarette. A herbal cigarette allows you to smoke without getting nicotine. And what exactly is the point of that?
Actually, quite a lot. When you try to stop smoking you have to overcome two main problems - the withdrawal from nicotine and the psychological dependence on smoking. If you have to withdraw from nicotine doesn’t it make sense to get support for the psychological stuff while you do it?
Herbal cigarettes allow your brain to stop panicking that you’re not allowed to smoke. They’re not addictive, so there is no danger you will get hooked, which means they are just a short-term measure.
No-one’s saying this is a safe way to smoke - that’s not what they are for. And they smell a bit strange, which other people might comment on, but actually they smell no worse than tobacco if you are a non-smoker.
There is a wide range of tastes, so try several and see which suits you best (they’re not expensive) and there are even hand-rolling mixtures (which you can use if you smoke cannabis and want to stop including tobacco with your joints). The main range is called Honeyrose, and they are available from health food shops (try Holland & Barrett), as well as the Honeyrose website.
There are two drugs prescribed currently by NHS GPs: Zyban (buproprion hydrochloride) and Champix (sold as Chantix in the United States).
The idea of prescribing a psychotropic drug is that it changes the way your brain works (Zyban, for example, is actually an anti-depressant drug), in the hope that if your brain is working differently it might reject the idea of smoking. This is a highly controversial theory with very little good science behind it.
The biggest problem with these drugs, though, is not just that they often simply don’t help people to stop smoking, but that they come at a price, which means a range of side-effects, from quite minor ones (headaches, nausea etc) to really very serious side effects like depression (anti-depressant drugs can make to depressed, believe it or not) psychotic episodes and even suicidal thoughts. A number of people have died whilst taking these drugs and the manufacturers are currently facing claims in court for compensation.
Nevertheless, the NHS, in its wisdom, continues to prescribe these drugs on the basis that they have to be seen to be doing SOMETHING, no matter how gormless. If you ask your GP to prescribe them, and he refuses, he is playing safe (not with your health but with his liability insurance), so forget about it.
When you stop smoking you are likely to have withdrawal symptoms. Acupuncture is excellent at relieving stress and pain, so it’s well suited to helping with these symptoms.
There are two types to help with stopping smoking:
Classical: This is with the needles you might be familiar with, and these can be applied in a number of locations on the body. If this technique is used, you may need more than one treatment.
Auricular: This uses very small balls attached with a sticking plaster to acupuncture points on your ear. Each time you feel the urge to smoke, you press these to generate endorphins to calm the symptoms. The benefit of auricular acupuncture is that you keep the balls in place for several days while you go through the withdrawal period, and treat yourself. For this reason we normally use classical and auricular acupuncture together.
Addiction Neutralisation Therapy (A.N.T.)
A.N.T. is the opposite of NRPs. Instead of giving you nicotine to stop you smoking, it stops your body looking for nicotine. But it doesn’t do this like Zyban or Champix, by stopping the brain looking for a signal that nicotine is present - instead it stops the receptors in the immune system looking for the drug, so they don’t need to send messages to the brain to look for a cigarette.
The treatment was developed within the NHS, by Dr Richard Mackarness of Basingstoke District General Hospital, and when he died the technique was almost lost. But in 1991 doctors started developing it again and now it’s available nationally through the NSCI.
You take what used to be called a vaccine but is properly called a tobacco neutrogen. It’s taken as drops by mouth each time you want to smoke. Each drop blocks the receptors for nicotine in your immune system, so there are no withdrawal symptoms.
It’s not an easy treatment to prescribe, because it has to be tailored to each individual patient, and this requires specialist test equipment and training, so unfortunately you’re never going to be able to get it from the NHS.
In fact it is only available as part of The Phoenix Stop-Smoking Programme from the Institute.
Allen Carr’s Easyway
In this programme you attend a group session led by someone who talks you through the entire process in cold, logical terms so by the time you leave you wonder why you ever smoked.
At the end of the session there’s a relaxation period (a bit like mass hypnosis) to give you a chance to fully absorb what you’ve been told.
If you don’t succeed the first time, or you do but you start smoking again, you can go back and sit through it all again. There’s also a helpline.
What sort of person does well with this approach? Naturally, if you are fairly easygoing and enjoy the group thing then you might.
There are Easyway franchises throughout the country.
The Weird and the Wonderful
Everyone wants to find the magic bullet that will stop people smoking, but of course there isn’t one, because smoking is an exceptionally complex medico-social problem. There is no single answer that will solve every smoker’s issues.
And they want to find the bullet because, let’s face it, there’s a lot of money to be made.
Tobacco kills one Briton every six minutes. Epidemiologically, it’s the biggest health problem the nation faces. Just about everyone who smokes, say over the age of twenty-five, wishes they didn’t (we’ve discussed this already, haven’t we?)
If you see an advertisement for some new method, or for say a hypnotherapist who claims 95% success, assume the worst.
And if you have some doubt about what you’re about to spend money on, call us and we tell you if it’s bona fide. At the Institute we monitor all developments, so we can advise you on whether what you have seen is likely to be ethical.
If a therapist claims a success rate, ask them to prove it, and if they can’t don’t give them your money. Anyone who can’t back up a claim should be making it. No NSCI hypnotherapist or acupuncturist will make such claims.
The drug industry is desperate to develop a vaccine against nicotine. So are governments, The US Government pumped $4 million into GlaxoSmithKline to help them come up with a profitable vaccine. The project was eventually abandoned.
So what is a nicotine vaccine? Well, it’s a misnomer, for a start. Nicotine is not a virus or a bacterium, so you can’t create antibodies to it with a vaccine. The word vaccine is used by these companies because it sounds impressive, but it’s scientific nonsense.
What they are in fact doing is genetically modifying the cholera bacterium so that it will accept a molecule of tobacco and become the world’s first vaccine against a toxin. It is, of course, science gone mad. Not only is it highly dangerous, but it is also completely pointless. We don’t need protecting against toxins, because we are all born with our own protection. It’s called the immune system. Scientists are trying to replicate what Nature gives us for free, in the hope of making a fast buck.
Anyway, it’s quite academic, because their bizarre treatments simply don’t work and never will.
If Smoking isn’t the problem,
many people try to stop smoking thinking that will solve a range of other problems, and when they fail they just get more unhappy.
This applies very much to stress. Notwithstanding what we said earlier about smoking not helping to relieve stress, an awful lot of people lead highly-stressed lives and smoke to try and cope. The problem for a lot of people is not the smoking but the stress. Are we saying sort your life out before you try to stop smoking? No, of course not. If you could sort your life out you would.
Are we saying you can’t stop smoking when you’re stressed? No again, because actually stopping smoking, for a lot of people, does in fact make life less stressful.
It’s one small (OK, not so small) success that makes life feel better.
What we’re really saying here, in our roundabout way, is that you shouldn’t be surprised if you don’t succeed with the smoking if there’s a lot of other stuff going on. Do whatever you can to address that other stuff first.
For example, if you live with a smoker who isn’t going, at the very least, to not smoke at home to support you, don’t expect this isn’t going to make stopping a whole lot harder. If you have an alcohol problem, resolving that must come first. If you can’t stop smoking because you’re socialising three times a week, think about your priorities, and don’t think you can do that AND stop smoking. You get the idea.
12. But What about Staying Stopped? ...
It may seem like a strange question, but how do you measure success?
If you’ve never had one day without smoking, a week will do. If you keep stopping smoking and starting again, when do you know it’s for ever? Well, in fact you don’t. You can’t. You can’t know what will happen tomorrow, can you?
But you can plan for it. You can think about a strategy for staying stopped. This section will give you some ideas about that. Actually, you might need to re-read it from time to time.
Do you remember, in the section on psychological dependence, we talked about the fear of stopping? If you overcome that fear you will succeed. The bad news, though (sorry, but we can’t only give you good news - that wouldn’t be realistic, would it?) is that the fear lasts for ever. Yes, for the rest of your life. This is what the tobacco companies have done to you. Learn to hate them.
The effect of this is that at any time in your life you could suddenly decide to smoke because the thought of not smoking becomes scary. It can happen months after your last cigarette. Or even years. That’s why people start smoking again, in every case.
You might say, oh no, I started again because I had too much to drink, or when I had some awful stress to cope with, or some other trigger. But that’s the point, they are only triggers, and they only make you smoke one, or two, or for an evening, or even for a week. What they don’t do is make you a smoker again. What does that is you, and the reason you do it is simple.
You start smoking again because you didn’t want to stop. No-one wants to stop. We said that in a previous section, didn’t we? You’re not reading this because you want to stop smoking, you’re reading it because you need to stop smoking, which is different.
So what happens long after you’ve stopped smoking is that you hit some trigger that makes you try smoking. You light it and strangely it doesn’t seem right. It’s not as nice as you though it would be. Your body is saying hey, put this out. But your brain is saying aha, I remember this, this is what I was afraid to stop doing once, yep, let’s have another go. After all, if it doesn’t taste good it must mean you need to practise a bit. They used to taste good after all. So you light another one, and that tastes better. And the next one’s just fine.
Actually, if it doesn’t taste good that’s because it’s not good. In fact it’s poisonous, and your body is trying to stop you doing it. But the memory of smoking, the control that remains in your brain that was put there by the fear of being without nicotine but which is now irrelevant, that grabs hold of you and makes you ignore this wonderful chance to save yourself again.
If you think we’re exaggerating we’re not. Ask anyone who has started again.
So there you are, you’ve smoked. And that was three years ago. Good grief, has it really been that long? Isn’t it time to stop smoking again?
No, it’s time to not start again.
And that’s where we come back to the question at the beginning - how do you know when you’ve succeeded? Well, the simple answer is that if you’re not smoking, today, you’ve succeeded. You might think oh no, I’ve done that lots of times and I always start again. So what, you think we care about that? No, if you haven’t smoked today you’re a non-smoker. You could be dead tomorrow, so let’s just stop thinking about it, shall we?
And if you have smoked today but you didn’t smoke yesterday or the day before, or even for weeks or months or years before that, just how do you calculate that smoking today makes you a smoker again? It doesn’t mean that at all. It means you’ve proved you can be a non-smoker and you’ve also proved you can be a smoker, so in the final analysis what you’ve proved is that you can choose.. Yes, you read that right, you can choose whether you are a smoker or not. Smoking for one day doesn’t take that choice away from you. And anyone who tells you smoking one cigarette means you’ve failed is talking out of their bottom.
13. The Four Promises ...
In all of our stop-smoking programmes we encourage people to read these, think about them, and live their life by them.
1. Differentiate between need and want
When you think you want a cigarette, ask why. Tobacco is a drug that is going to kill you, so check you really do need it before you light up. That’s not a lecture - it’s just plain common sense, isn’t it?
2. Ask if there’s any benefit
If you hear yourself saying one won’t hurt, stop and ask a different question. What would it do for you? If the answer is nothing but you’re going to have it anyway, that idea doesn’t come from you, it comes from the tobacco companies who want to gain control of your life again.
3. Listen to your body
If after a long time of not smoking you light a cigarette, it’s probably going to taste bad, or at least pointless. If that happens, ask yourself if this is worth dying for. If the answer is no, then put it out and be thankful you’re still making sense. If the answer is yes, they’ve got you.
4. Never light a second cigarette
Well if you’ve just put out a cigarette you weren’t enjoying, why would you? (Because that’s the control tobacco has over you, but there’s nothing to stop you standing up for your rights, is there?)
14. Tomatoes. Tomatoes? ...
Tomatoes? What can they possibly have to do with stopping smoking?
Well, for a lot of people, nothing at all. But for a small minority of smokers they can be crucial.
The tomato plant and the tobacco plan are, believe it or not, relatives. They are both members of the solanaceae family (that’s Nightshade, as in Deadly)
Which means your body can recognise the molecular structure of tomato as similar to tobacco, and if you eat tomato (which of course includes anything at all made from tomato) it can get confused.
We have seen smokers who never stopped craving, years after they stopped smoking, because no-one told them to come off tomato. (By the way, you don’t have to come off tomato for ever, just a few days from the point when you stop smoking.)
And if no-one has told you this before, you have been asking the wrong people for advice.
This amazing little book is no longer available to buy, but you can read the entire content here, free of charge, with our compliments.