ANOTHER VIEW : Giving up isn't hard to do

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The Independent Online
Bryan Appleyard is right that pressuring smokers to stop by telling them what they know already - that the habit is killing them, costing them a fortune etc - does not help. The experience at our clinics is that for most self-respecting smokers No Smoking Day is the one day they will refuse to stop. Many smoke twice as many twice as blatantly that day. I used to. Contrary to popular belief, smokers are not stupid, weak- willed people. They are as intelligent and strong-willed as the rest of us, and they do not like being told what to do.

Mr Appleyard, however, is wrong to suggest that once you are a smoker you can never altogether rid yourself of the desire to smoke. The fact is that you can stop if you go about it the right way (as I found 12 years ago). It is the illusion that you can never get completely free from the craving that prevents many smokers even trying to stop. Mr Appleyard has done his smoking readers a great disservice in propagating this view.

However, the article commits a far greater crime. By repeating the absurd claims in Richard Klein's book, ludicrously entitled Cigarettes are Sublime, that cigarettes possess "power and beauty" and "are a great and beautiful civilising tool and one of America's proudest contributions to the world", he perpetuates the mystique surrounding the world's number one killer drug addiction.

His pseudo-philosophical pronouncements ("they are sublime because they involve a confrontation with mortality" - so does walking under a bus) are simply the intellectual man's excuse for continuing to act in a manner contrary to rational judgement. The implication that the cigarettes in Casablanca helped to defeat Hitler leads me to question Mr Appleyard's sanity. The only connection between cigarettes and Hitler is that both are responsible for holocausts. Cigarettes help to kill as many people every two years as Hitler managed in six. Films such as Casablanca, depicting strong-willed, intelligent and beautiful people smoking, give the impression that the characters are drawing these qualities from the cigarette. If anything, it is the cigarette that draws the qualities from the characters.

The assertion that "addiction is a far more intellectual phenomenon than mere chemical dependency" is correct. The difficulties smokers experience in stopping are not the physical withdrawal pangs from nicotine but the feelings of deprivation that result from the (mistaken) belief that they are being deprived of a genuine pleasure or crutch. Smokers do not "fume in peace" and are not in love with death. Mr Appleyard's article simply fosters the misconceptions that smokers already have, and therefore serves to keep them trapped in a prison of their own making. I discovered a way out of that prison 12 years ago, and I have been showing it to other prisoners ever since.

The writer is founder of "The Easy Way to Stop Smoking Method" and of an international network of smoking cessation clinics.

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