Yes, I am serious. Deadly serious.
All you smokers out there, health professionals too: I’m going to tell how I went from three packs of cigarettes a day to zero. No heroic test of will power was involved. Furthermore, I never wanted a cigarette again. Never.
If the method comes as a revelation — if you have a “Eureka!,” “That’s it!,” or “Ah ha!” feeling — it is because it consists of things you already KNOW but are NOT AWARE of.
Oh, before I forget: I have nothing to sell you. Zero, nada, rien. My motive is elsewhere . . .
It all began in 1957. My buddy and I had just started smoking. I will never forget his bright-eyed, 13-year-old face proclaiming, “I don’t worry about lung cancer. I figure by the time we get there, they’ll have a cure for it.” Seemed downright reasonable at the time.
He kept smoking; I quit in 1978. After a 50-year run, he died in 2007. He was right about one thing: lung cancer did not kill him. He died of throat cancer.
Everybody must die from something. But let me assure you: you do not want to die from throat cancer. It is far worse than lung cancer. I have seen both. I will not go into lurid details; ask a friend, neighbor, or family member who works in a hospital.
And so, Scott Smith of Sarasota, Florida, my good friend, I dedicate this article to you. Helping someone avoid what you went through is, hopefully, something we can do.
The method I used to stop smoking consists of insights gleaned from two, very isolated incidents.
Incident 1: 1963. Some friends and I — all heavy smokers — were in a college cafeteria. One of them ate ice cream, and then asked if he could “borrow a cigarette.” You know how that works. Somebody gave him one, whereupon he twirled it between his thumb and forefinger, then proceeded to put it — unlit — in ice cream soup residue at the bottom of the bowl. A born clown, he smeared it around.
“You fool!,” the others snapped, “You wasted a perfectly good cigarette! How could you do such a thing?” For the sake of common decency and gentility, I delete the various expletives that followed.
Watching their faces swelling with unabashed, unabridged rage, if not hatred, I thought: that gesture of deliberately destroying a cigarette is extremely powerful. Indeed, like great art, it stirs up the unconscious.
I had no idea of what to do with that observation until
Incident 2: 1978. I wanted to stop smoking, but after 20 years I was hooked. My motive: I thought cigarettes no longer tasted as good as they used to. I also thought it was just my imagination. Wrong. It has since been revealed that after the 1950s, all sorts of chemicals were added to tobacco to keep it burning, keep you addicted, etc.
That same year, a dentist showed me a white place in my mouth. “It isn’t cancer,” he said, “but it’s a pre-cancerous formation.” Eminent danger added to no enjoyment whatsoever: I still could not quit smoking. That is a classic “chain” smoker, if there ever was one.
Shortly after the trip to the dentist, I was walking my dog. From an open window a radio ad blared: “Stop the ugly habit of smoking. Schick Stop-Smoking Centers . . . ” I stopped, alright. “That’s it!,” I realized: smoking is not a habit.
I know that idea sounds absurd, crazy. Let me explain:
Smoking is not a habit. Smoking is a series of habits. Smoking is (i) having cigarettes on you at all times. Smoking is (ii) reaching in your pocket, (iii) taking out your pack, (iv) removing a cigarette, (v) putting it in your mouth, (vi) taking out a lighter or matches. Smoking is (vii) making sure when you go to a drugstore that you have enough cigarettes. The list goes on and on.
Now you know why it is so hard to stop smoking. You are not trying to break a habit; you are trying to break hundreds, if not thousands — depending on how you define them — of habits. It is simply too much to ask of yourself to do so much at one time.
Every link in a chain is important. I figured the trick was not to try to break all the links at once, but to break only one — the main one. And the main one in smoking is nicotine in the blood stream. If you can break the chemical dependency, all the other habits — carrying a pack around, reaching in your pocket — lose their meaning, dissolve, vanish. By themselves, they are nonsense. The proof of that statement is simple: no non-smoker in the world has them.
(a) Destroying a cigarette is a powerful gesture and (b) smoking is not a habit: taken together, those two observations created the following method to stop smoking forever:
I did not challenge any of the habits. Not a single one. In fact, I rigorously followed them; I performed 99% of the old gestures. If I wanted a pack of cigarettes, I bought one. I carried a pack around at all times. If I wanted a cigarette, I would take one out of the pack, light the match, move the match toward the cigarette. And then . . .
I put out the match. I took the cigarette out of my mouth, and sniffed it. After two days of not smoking, it will smell so awful it will send a chill up your spine: I guarantee it. Then slowly, methodically, I destroyed the cigarette. Gently, I tore the paper and carefully removed the tobacco a bit at a time, which I twisted and twirled between my fingers, then put in an ashtray.
Initially, after destroying a cigarette, you may find yourself still wanting to smoke one. I know I did. Fine. No problem. Just take out another cigarette and repeat the procedure. Take your time destroying that “perfectly good” cigarette; observe it closely. Do not forget to sniff it.
Two months later, I was walking my dog down the same path, and felt something in my shirt pocket. It was half a pack of cigarettes. “I don’t need this any more,” I thought, and tossed it in a trashcan. End of story.
Well, not quite the end. If the above method works for you, from time to time you will look in your wallet or purse and wonder about something: where did all that money come from? Instead of cigarettes, the method puts money in your pocket.
How much money? Well, in 2008, a pack cost on average $ 5.00. Three packs a day = $ 15. $ 15 x 365 = $ 5,475 per year up in smoke. I will not go into the other costs, notably taxes and charges to pay for healthcare.
You can do a lot with $ 5,000. Fix the roof, buy clothes, even take the wife and kids on a sun-filled vacation. If the stop-smoking method described above works for you, I hope one balmy afternoon on the beach, you will look at the lazy clouds and say, “Thanks, Scott Smith.” Any money saved by not smoking is Scott Money, in my opinion. I have a lot of it.
If the method works for you, I hope you will do something else. Tell your story to a friend, neighbor or loved one who wants to, but cannot, quit smoking. You just might save them from the horrifying death Scott Smith endured. It was not right. It was not fair. But it happened.