EasyWay Method to Stop Smoking: Is There Really an "Easy" Way?

The Easy Way to Stop Smoking, according to Allen Carr, is to read his book.  I've summarized my impressions of the book in the first couple of paragraphs below, and provide a little more detail about it on the rest of this page.

Executive Summary

If you already know that smoking doesn't make you smarter, sexier, or more relaxed, you won't learn much from this book.  On the other hand, if you haven't yet internalized these things, or if you have any doubts at all about whether smoking is bad for you, then get this book and read it immediately.  It may not make you quit, but it will certainly provide you with a lot of information about why you should. 

Easy Way to Stop Smoking does a pretty good job of explaining various smoking fallacies, and understanding these fallacies can help put you in the right frame of mind to quit smoking.  It is very well reviewed on Amazon, so clearly a number of people DID find the information in this book helpful.

If you do already understand why you should quit, and are looking for something to tell you HOW, this isn't it.  There's not much in the way of 'method' in Easy Way to Stop Smoking, beyond the instructions "Decide to quit.  Quit.  Whenever you think you want a cigarette, tell yourself, 'Yay, I've quit.'"  In general, the book is simplistic and repetitive, but if you need something to shore up your resolve to quit, this book may help with that.   

Overview

The Easy Way to Stop Smoking book was first published in 1985, and since then has sold millions of copies.  Interestingly, Allen Carr (the author) was an accountant who actually quit via hypnosis, but does not attribute his success at quitting to that.  Instead, in his book he describes trying to figure out why it was so easy that time (not to mention successful) when it had been so difficult before.  The Allen Carr Easy Way to Stop Smoking method is the product of that exploration. 

The general premise of the Easy Way to Stop Smoking is that instead of looking at reasons to quit smoking, it makes more sense to turn it around and ask, why smoke?  According to the author, the only reason folks smoke at all is because of the nicotine addiction and what he calls 'brainwashing.'  The 'brainwashing' refers to all of the ways society, cigarette manufacturers, and the nicotine addiction itself convince you that there is something good or useful about smoking.  In fact, Carr does a good job of making the case that virtually all of the 'pleasure' you get from smoking is really a function of relieving either the physical or psychological addiction.  Once you've broken out of those addictions, there is, in fact, nothing to 'give up' and quitting becomes easy.

So the Easy Way to Stop Smoking method, in a nutshell, consists of reading the book - while continuing to smoke - to 'undo' the brainwashing.  Once you've undone the brainwashing, putting out your last cigarette and eliminating the physical addiction to nicotine is not only easy, it's actually joyful as you realize that you are finally freeing yourself from the nicotine 'monster.' 

My Impressions

I actually agree with the general premise of the book ― that virtually all of the enjoyment from smoking is a function of relieving some aspect of a physical addiction to nicotine or a psychological dependence on smoking itself.  It's also true that once you've freed yourself from these, that quitting is pretty easy. The problem is, getting over the dependence ― especially the psychological dependence ― is just not as simple as reading a book and understanding the information, at least for most people. 

One reason that's true is because people process information in two different 'modes,' using two different information systems:  the Rational System, and the Experiential System.  It is primarily the Rational System that works to understand the information in the Easy Way to Stop Smoking book, but unfortunately, the desire to smoke is rooted in the Experiential System.  The ultimate outcome of quitting using only information processed by the Rational System is that you manage to quit (at least for awhile), but the desire to smoke remains strong. 

Easy Way to Stop Smoking fails to deal with this very important issue.  In one of the final chapters, Carr describes how he is frustrated by the category of smokers who find it a struggle to quit.  (Isn't that most folks?)  One of the problems, he says, is that they've misunderstood his instructions.  His response to someone who quits but is still craving cigarettes is: 

"Then you are being very stupid.  How can you claim, 'I want to be a non-smoker' and then say 'I want a cigarette?'  That's a contradiction.  If you say, 'I want a cigarette,' you are saying, 'I want to be a smoker.'  Non-smokers don't want to smoke cigarettes."

In fact, people who have quit smoking recently often DO have a strong desire to smoke.  However, it's hard to imagine how this comment, focused strongly on Rational System processing, would be at all helpful in that situation.  What you need instead are functional tools to begin to eliminate the desire to smoke where it lives - in the Experiential System.

(Read more about psychological smoking dependence.)

Pros and Cons

What are the pros and cons of The Easy Way to Stop Smoking?

 Pros:

  • The book provides useful information about how nicotine creates the need for the 'pleasure' that smoking provides.  (For instance, although it may feel like smoking a cigarette helps you deal with stress, the truth is, smoking only relieves the 'stress' that is caused by nicotine withdrawal itself.  Once you're off, your stress levels will be lower all the time, because you're off the nicotine roller coaster that actually causes a lot of your stress.)

  • The book also presents an important an often overlooked aspect of quitting:  One of the things that makes quitting difficult is 'trying' to quit instead of 'knowing' that you've quit.  Once you've made that leap, you've bridged a large and important gap that makes being an ex-smoker much easier and more comfortable.

Cons:

  • The main downside to the 'Easy Way to Stop Smoking 'method' is that it doesn't really provide much of a 'method' at all.  Carr provides a lot of information about what makes it 'easy' to quit, but doesn't provide the tools you need to get there.  Until you can internalize the information into the experiential system, quitting isn't easy at all.

  • In his enthusiasm for his own perspective, Carr presents some viewpoints that are contradicted by valid research, and may turn people away from some tools that could actually help them quit.  For example, he says that some people quit 'in spite of' nicotine replacement therapy.  While I agree that the psychological dependence is the primary barrier to quitting, research shows that dealing with the nicotine addiction in conjunction with psychological techniques can improve success rates.    (There are different ways to deal with the nicotine addiction - NRT is just one of them.)

  • In general, the book is overly simplistic and repetitive, and it doesn't deal with very real psychological issues such as grief processing or the difference between rational and experiential information processing.  As a result, Carr's advice for people who continue to have cravings is of limited usefulness, to say the least. 

My Recommendations

Some smokers would probably benefit from the information in this book, but I wouldn't rely on it as a method for quitting - there's just not much 'method' to it.  You should also understand that the author doesn't have a background/education in psychology (he quit his job as an accountant when he 'discovered' this 'method'), so his treatment of psychological principles tends to be simplistic and in some cases simply inaccurate. 

Ultimately, if you're looking for something to help get you into the right frame of mind to quit, especially if you like to read, it may be worth checking out. From a cost perspective, it's low risk: you can buy  Easy Way to Stop SmokingEasyWay to Quit Smoking Book for around $10 on Amazon. 

On the other hand, if you're looking for an actual step-by-step method, you'll need to keep looking - this book falls far short.

privacy policy