A Complicated Way to Quit Smoking
In California there’s an organisation with the amusing name of ‘Ash Kickers’. It’s a six-session programme intended to cure you of smoking.
Sounds interesting, but six sessions? And how do they do it? It’s based on the ‘trans-theoretical model of behaviour modification’. Pardon? They explain:
[This] helps smokers travel through the various stages of quitting smoking. These stages include thinking about quitting, preparing to quit, finally quitting, and preventing relapse.
Further, in order to help achieve this worthy goal, we are told that:
The program also incorporates tobacco education, group support and tools for maintenance as part of a comprehensive effort to help users stop smoking.
Anything that helps smokers quit is to be welcomed, but why make it so complicated? Does one really have to ‘travel through the various stages of quitting’?
We start with thinking about quitting, but what’s the good of that? Then, preparing to quit. This is similar to thinking about it, but what is there to think about or prepare? You wake up one day with the realisation that smoking is pointless, dangerous, and a waste of money, so you decide that you don’t want to do it anymore—or do you?
The idea that stopping smoking is something for which you need to prepare yourself is unfortunate: it implies it’s going to be difficult, so you have to gear yourself up for the big day, like taking an exam or the driving test. As a smoker, your need is to stop right now. Even one extra cigarette will do you harm. And what’s going to be different whenever you decide the dreaded—for now you probably are dreading it—quit-day is going to be? And in the end, finally quitting.
Now consider this: for how long do people in general smoke until they reach the stage of deciding to quit? The answer is years or decades. And what have smokers gained during all this time during which they were poisoning themselves all day, every day? A means of solving all life’s problems and abolishing unhappiness? No. What they have got out of it is—nothing. Nothing, that is, except temporary relief of the desire to smoke—until they wanted the next cigarette.
As for ‘travelling through the various stages’, you can go from being a smoker to quitting in one step. In any case, this is the easy bit. The more difficult part is never smoking again in the rest of your life. But, unfortunately for many smokers, it seems the prospect of never smoking again is almost intolerable.
Ash Kickers, bless their cotton socks, focus on all the problems in the way of quitting—as if problems are inevitable and unavoidable in the quest to return to the happy state of not being a nicotine addict. It would be more helpful, instead, for smokers to contemplate why they have continued to smoke. If they can understand that, they would realise that any perceived benefits or advantages of smoking are purely illusory, and by quitting they have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
It’s of little use, however, just telling smokers this. Much better is to help them demonstrate to themselves why they really smoke and why quitting seems so hard. Then quitting can be easy.
Text © Gabriel Symonds