Allen Carr, from London, England was a chain smoker for thirty-three years. In the summer of 1983, after countless miserable attempts to quit, he discovered what every smoker dreams of: an easy way to stop smoking.
Later that year Carr left his extremely successful career as an accountant (he was Chief Financial Officer of a UK public company) to work full-time helping smokers quit. Word of his simple, drug-free method spread rapidly, and soon, smokers were flying in from all over the world to attend his legendary seminar.
By 1985 the waiting list to attend was so long that Carr decided to put the method into book form. That book: Allen Carr’s Easyway to Stop Smoking, first published in 1985 has become a self-help classic, selling more than 12m copies to date and being translated into more than 40 languages. It has been a number one bestseller in nine countries including the UK, Ireland, France, Italy, Russia and Norway. In 1999 it was voted by Amazon customers as one of the 50 Most Important Books of the 20th Century.
As the book became internationally established purely through word of mouth, demand for Easyway seminars continued to grow. Today, Allen Carr’s Easyway seminar is available in more than 150 locations in over 40 countries. Every year more than 100,000 smokers attend an Allen Carr seminar making it the biggest and most popular quit smoking program in the world.
Up until 2005 the success of the Easyway method was only in evidence via the packed-out seminars, millions of books sales and the thousands of testimonials all of which had come purely through word of mouth. That changed when Professor Manfred Neuberger of the Institute of Public Health in Vienna published a study which rocked the smoking cessation world.
Prof. Neuberger examined data from 1,311 German and Austrian steelworkers who smoked and found that more than half were able to quit after attending just a single five-hour Allen Carr seminar. What’s more, he found that the success rate rose even higher – to 75.8% – for those who also attended follow-up sessions (follow-up sessions are offered free of charge to all seminar attendees). To put this in context, the success rate for going ‘cold turkey’ is 3-5%, NRT is 6-10%, hypnosis and acupuncture / laser therapy is around 4%, Zyban is around 11% and Chantix is around 22% (although the success rates for Zyban and Chantix are from trials that also include up to 26 individual counselling sessions, so the real life success rate is likely to be quite a bit lower).
Even more impressive was the feedback from attendees: 86% of quitters described their quitting experience in extremely positive terms, fewer than 10% said that they ever missed smoking and more than 95% said they would recommend the seminar to a smoking friend or family member.
So not only is Allen Carr’s Easyway method 6-10 times more effective than other methods, attendees find quitting easy and life as a non-smoker extremely enjoyable. What a dramatic difference from the usual horrific quitting stories we hear! But how can we explain this?
It’s simple: other methods focus on trying to boost willpower or to reduce withdrawal symptoms whereas Allen Carr’s Easyway method is the only method which actually focuses on the key issue facing smokers wanting to quit – the desire to smoke.
What Allen Carr discovered was that what makes it hard to quit smoking was nothing to do with nicotine, it is the beliefs that smokers have about what smoking does for them. For example, most smokers believe that cigarettes help them relax or cope with stress. When they try to quit, they feel that they will be deprived of this pleasure or crutch and at this point, a conflict is created: part of them wants to quit, but because they believe that the cigarette helps them relax or cope with stress, part of them still wants to smoke. This mental and emotional conflict can be brutal and can manifest itself in a wide variety of physical symptoms that many smokers mistakenly describe as ‘physical withdrawal from nicotine’.
Allen realized that these beliefs were an illusion, based on a trick that nicotine plays on our brains when we start smoking as children or young adults. When the young smoker puts a cigarette out, they go into ‘physical withdrawal from nicotine’. Most smokers are not aware of withdrawal and if they are it is very, very mild, a bit like a hunger pang or the beginning of a slight butterfly in the tummy feeling. When the smoker lights another cigarette, the nicotine is restored and the empty, anxious feeling goes away. This is why many smokers believe that smoking is an appetite suppressant and relieves anxiety – because a nicotine pang feels so similar to a hunger pang or a pang of anxiety. This faulty connection – that smoking relieves this feeling when of course it was the previous cigarette that created it – is reinforced every time the smoker lights up and so the smoker ends up seeing the relief of slight withdrawal as ‘stress relief’ or ‘relaxation’.
Carr realized that for smokers to find it easy to quit, they needed to change their beliefs about smoking and quitting. By explaining the nicotine ‘trick’ to smokers he found that it was possible to completely change their perspective with respect to smoking. Instead of seeing the cigarette as the solution, they could learn to see it as the problem. Instead of losing a friend, by quitting they were actually killing an enemy. This change of perspective enabled smokers to completely eliminate the desire to smoke, and with no desire to smoke, it doesn’t take willpower not to. With no willpower struggles, quitting can be easy and we show this day-in and day-out at our seminars where we routinely see the hardest of hardcore smokers quit immediately, permanently and easily.