Allen Carr

Author of anti-smoking bestsellers


Allen John Carr, anti-smoking campaigner: born London 2 September 1934; twice married (four children); died Marbella, Spain 29 November 2006.

Allen Carr thought he could cure the world of smoking. He didn't manage it in his lifetime, but his books and clinics convinced millions of people to kick the habit. Many of those who found freedom from their addiction, and whose lifespans were subsequently extended, viewed him as a saviour.

Despite his self-confessed obsession with helping people to quit smoking, Carr, was, in some ways, a very ordinary man. The best thing about the considerable wealth his success had brought him, he said, was not the dream home near Marbella in Spain, with its sleek marbling and gilded chandeliers, but being free of the worry of having enough money to fix the car when it broke down.

Allen Carr was born, in 1934, and raised in Putney, south-west London, and attended the local grammar school, Wandsworth Boys School, as a scholarship boy. His mother, Louise, was permanently depressed and would threaten to put her head in the gas oven. His father, John, a self-employed jobbing builder, hardly spoke. Returning from the pub, where he was considered the life and soul, John Carr would sit in silence and smoke while his wife raged. He died of lung cancer in 1964, at the age of 56. Allen Carr remembered later, "I promised my father on his deathbed that I would stop smoking. I went straight outside and lit up."

He had started smoking by the time he embarked upon his National Service with the RAF, where he was made a drill instructor. Carr then trained as an accountant, a profession suggested by his school, but which he disliked. He had wanted to do something sporty, even to be a professional golfer. "I hated being an accountant, and found it stressful," he said:

I smoked roll-ups at first, then Senior Service. Then I took to a pipe because I thought it was so disgusting I'd have to stop. Soon I was on 2oz of Balkan Sobranie a day. I stopped for three weeks, then took one Hamlet from a box. From 30 of those a day I progressed to Peter Stuyvesant, the only cigarette mild enough to let me smoke 100 a day.

But in 1983, after numerous attempts, he finally gave up his smoking habit. He started teaching his methods to other smokers in one-to-one sessions. "I placed a small advert in the local paper, offering a money-back guarantee. I was inundated with clients." This developed into a business of more than 70 "Easyway" clinics in 30 different countries.

His first book, The Easy Way to Stop Smoking, was published in 1985, and has since sold over seven million copies (later under the title Allen Carr's Easy Way to Stop Smoking). It constantly reinforces the message that the craving for a cigarette isn't satisfied by smoking one, but is simply causing a deeper desire to the next. Numerous other successful books followed, including on weight loss (Allen Carr's Easyweigh to Lose Weight, 1997), drinking (Allen Carr's Easy Way to Control Alcohol, 2001) and fear of flying (The Easyway to Enjoy Flying, 2000).

Running his own business empire suited Carr, as he hated being told what to do. Despite his success - he treated many celebrities over the years, including Richard Branson, Anthony Hopkins and Jerry Hall - he still felt like a failure, he said, as the rest of the world continued to smoke. Not a year went by without a rumour that he had taken up the habit again. In 2001, he sued the DJ Chris Evans for saying so on air on Virgin Radio.

One of Carr's biggest joys was playing lawn bowls with the friends he had made after buying his Spanish house to escape the relentless English drizzle. Most mornings would be spent ploughing up and down his pool, not for pleasure, but for the benefits of exercise.

Despite finding the UK a depressing place to live, he was proud to be English (many people assumed he was American). In his Spanish home was a spot-lit painting of an idyllic English rustic scene. One interviewer was offered a cheese-and-onion sandwich made on an old Breville. Carr also had a house in Surrey.

It was a form of lung cancer linked to nicotine intake that eventually claimed Carr's life. The disease was diagnosed this summer and at the time he said that cancer was a price worth paying for curing so many smokers. It was believed that the years he spent curing them in smoke-filled sessions at his clinics might have contributed to the illness.

Julia Stuart

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