How Not To Quit Smoking – Again
To help smokers in London stick to a New Year’s resolution to quit smoking, a campaign was announced towards the end of December 2020. It was called, appropriately enough, ‘Stop Smoking London’, though it’s not clear what’s so special about London in this regard as opposed to the rest of the country.
Alas, the campaign is yet another example of everything that’s wrong with the orthodox approach—for such it is—to quitting smoking. It’s the usual mix of unintended discouragement, pointing out the obvious, and trite advice about how to change one’s smoking ‘habit’. A major omission is any mention, as far as I can see, of nicotine addiction.
In spite of the clunky cliché, at least they start off on the right foot (no pun intended):
There has never been a better time to kick-start your health. Quit smoking today…
Triggers and how to manage them
They think people smoke because of ‘triggers’ such as boredom, when drinking alcohol, stress, the fact that it’s the morning, socialising, anxiety (though it’s not clear how anxiety differs from stress)—but not a word about nicotine addiction.
Then they trot out a list of obvious reasons for wanting to quit smoking: feel and look better, improve your sex life, being or being about to be a parent, for the sake of family and friends, save money, and improve one’s health. There’s even a handy guide to how much money you could save if you’re a ten-a-day smoker and you don’t smoke for six months: £1,003.
But smokers already know all this, including how much money they’re wasting on cigarettes, and don’t need to be reminded.
Next we come to the ‘How to quit guidelines’ which, we are told, are ‘Here to help you on your quit journey.’
It’s said that life is a journey, but quitting smoking? This implies that ceasing to poison yourself with tobacco fumes is a process. But it’s not a process or journey—it’s a state: either you smoke or you don’t.
Then they ask, ‘Are you ready to quit smoking this New Year?’ But if they have to ask this question it implies that the smoker wishes or intends to continue smoking, at least until 1st January. How about quitting smoking right now?
Ordinary quit attempts or serious quit attempts!
The next step is to invoke the help of one Sarah Jackson, who I doubt has treated a single smoker herself, but she’s done research of the following kind:
We included those who reported having made at least one quit attempt in the preceding 12 months. This was assessed with the question, ‘How many serious attempts to stop smoking have you made in the past 12 months? By serious I mean you decided that you would try to make sure you never smoked again.’
What’s the difference between an ordinary quit attempt and a serious quit attempt? The latter, according to Ms Jackson, is when a smoker has decided they would try to make sure they never smoked again. But if a smoker made a quit attempt which did not involve trying to make sure that they never smoked again, it would hardly count as a quit attempt, so the word ‘serious’ is redundant. The question, then, can be simplified: How many attempts to stop smoking have you made in the past 12 months?
Unfortunately, even this doesn’t get us very far. This is because, although the urge to smoke may be difficult to resist, smoking is a voluntary activity and therefore the same objection applies here as to the ‘journey’ concept. In other words, those who have quit smoking, have quit; those who are on the journey or who make quit attempts, serious or otherwise, smoke.
Furthermore, punctuation clearly is not the copywriter’s forte.
There are many reasons why you smoke, we call these your smoking triggers, different people will have different ones.
When you know what your smoking triggers are you can understand the best way to avoid them or find ways to manage them, this will help you to succeed and quit smoking for good.
The comma splice errors should be corrected with full stops after which new sentences should begin, or the whole thing should be recast.
Punctuation apart, this makes no sense. They’re saying that you, the reader (if you’re a smoker), have many reasons or ‘triggers’ to smoke, but these are different for different people. Actually, there’s only one reason, au fond, why any smoker smokes: drug addiction, the drug, of course, being nicotine. But, as I have already mentioned, not a word of this appears on the website.
Instead, we have reasons or triggers, of which I’ll take one as an example: the fact that it’s morning! (I am not making this up.)
Cock-a-doodle doo! It’s morning! Time for your first ciggy!
As the Irishman said
But despair not. Helpful advice follows, again with the motorbike analogy:
How to stop smoking first thing in the morning and kick-start a smoke-free day.
Instead of reaching for a cigarette, grab a glass of water and drink it all. You’ve made a tangible swap already, and you’ll be hydrating your body to reduce any cravings you might have.
So hydrating your body will reduce any cravings! As the Irishman said, ‘If only I’d known dat!’
Quit coffee as well!
Next comes some advice about coffee:
A coffee and a smoke might be natural for you. Quit both so you don’t associate one with the other.
Now it seems you should not only quit smoking but coffee as well! It’s enough to make you want to grab a cigarette.
But if you’ve been through all this and still have problems, you’re advised to ‘Use your quit smoking tools.’
Quit smoking tools
And what might these be? First, nicotine products: patches, gum, mouth spray, nasal spray, lozenges, inhalators, and microtabs. So much nicotine! And second, prescribed medications of which two are mentioned: Champix and Zyban.
Champix and Zyban are the trade names of the chemical drugs varenicline and bupropion, respectively. And what these do is to produce a drugged or altered mental state. So now, in addition to the altered mental state you’re in as smoker due to nicotine acting on your brain, you will have a further alteration of your brain’s neurochemistry by these drugs!
The advice continues:
It’s much easier to avoid smoking in the morning using your quit smoking tools. Have them by your bed or wherever you normally have your first cigarette.
The quit smoking tools, with another comma splice in the second sentence, include the following:
Exercise is a great way to change your morning routine, distract you from smoking and reduce your cravings. You don’t have to go to the gym, short blasts at home work just as well.
Another quit smoking tool involves invoking the help of family and friends in quitting smoking, neatly summed up, thus:
…how to get the people closest to you behind you.
This sounds like Jesus: ‘Get thee behind me, Satan.’ (Mark 8:33)
But there may be a reason for using these Biblical words to one’s loved ones, because
Sometimes friends or family with the best of intentions can fall into the trap of nagging rather than supporting.
The Biblical injunction should be directed at the nicotine addiction, which unfortunately they omit to mention, rather than to one’s long-suffering family and friends, even if they do start nagging.
How is all this supposed to work? With yet another appearance of the comma splice errror, the copywriter informs us:
Some smokers may try to quit with willpower alone, however research suggests that only three in one hundred smokers manage to stop permanently this way. By combining different support methods, you can double, and in some cases triple, your chance of quitting long term.
So instead of only three in a hundred succeeding, now we shall have six or nine in a hundred. Big deal!
One reason for these poor results is evident in the reported comments on the website of Dr Somen Banerjee, who is Vice Chair of the Association of Directors of Public Health, London Network, and London Smoking Cessation and Tobacco Control Lead, no less:
New Year’s resolutions can often fail because people are aiming for an overhaul of their entire lifestyle rather than focusing on one behaviour change. The information on the website will help London smokers at this important time of year for quitting.
The real smoking problem
When will those in the Quit Smoking Industry realise that quitting smoking is not a matter of a behaviour change?
The problem is how to overcome nicotine addiction.
Fortunately, this is much easier than most people imagine if you go about it in the right way as I show with the Symonds Method.
Text © Gabriel Symonds