Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking

May be an image of book

Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking (1985) by Allen Carr. Something different this week. Allen Carr was a prolific English writer, the author of books aimed at helping to quit various addictions and fears: nicotine, alcohol, other drugs, overeating, flying, anxiety and even digital addiction (in ‘Smart Phone Dumb Phone’). Carr is best known for his work on quitting smoking, and milked it for all it was worth with no less than six books on the topic, plus another on quitting vaping! One, titled ‘How to be a Happy Non-smoker’ would seem to me superfluous, but then I haven’t read it. His approach is unique, eschewing scare tactics for a genuine empathy with unhappy smokers nevertheless fearful of losing their ‘pleasure’ and living a healthier-but-miserable life. He had been a very heavy smoker in despair at ever stopping until, as he explained in an interview, “only by the grace of God” he put together two pieces of information and the light-bulb moment occurred. Having cured himself, with the zeal of a religious convert he set out to cure the world. Carr quit his work as an accountant in 1983 to set up his first clinic. Since then his methods and treatments have spread across the globe. The Allen Carr method is by far the most successful, statistically more effective than any government-approved or other approach. He persuasively argues that quitting is easy – not frightfully difficult as so many are convinced – and that it is partly a matter of semantics: for example, it should not be labelled “giving up” which sounds like being deprived of something enjoyable. (Giving up is what you do for Lent or Ramadan.)I first came across this book more than twenty years ago and was quickly taken by its unusual approach to nicotine addiction. But I also read it very slowly, fearing that it might work! Finally, on a sunny Saturday morning in March 2000 AD I did the course in a Melbourne suburb and smoked my last cigarette. Ever. The Allen Carr method must take some credit, but I had also reached the right psychological moment in life where it felt like Now or Never. Almost seven years later, Carr died – ironically of lung cancer quite possibly caused by passive smoking as he assisted addicts to quit.