Oh the Pangs, the Pangs!
I stopped smoking more than fifty years ago when we were taken on a teaching round of the chest ward of the hospital where I trained. Nonetheless, for professional purposes I subscribed to the NHS ‘Smokefree’ motivational emails. Except they aren’t. This is discussed in my new book, Smoking is a Psychological Problem.
Once you’re on their mailing list they don’t let you go, unless you request to be unsubcribed. Is this because they think the scheme may not be very effective? If so, and if I were still a smoker, I shouldn’t blame them for such lack of confidence in its efficacy.
I received a follow-up email recently. It shows, once again, everything that’s wrong, in my view, with the current orthodox approach to smoking cessation.
The first thing it says is ‘You’ve got the power!’ Is this something to do with Star Wars? Then there’s the headline: ‘You’re stronger than the cravings.’
This implies, wrongly, that stopping smoking is associated with ‘cravings’ which you need strength to overcome. But they helpfully tell you that ‘on average, cravings don’t last longer than five minutes’. Nonetheless, to endure these five minutes you’re advised to ‘distract yourself’, such as by ‘a kickabout in the park’. Other suggestions are to ‘do the crossword or call your friend for a good gossip.’
To organize a kickabout in the park is going to take a lot longer than five minutes, and what if you’re in the middle of work? As for the crossword, presumably this refers to a daily crossword puzzle in a newspaper, but what if you don’t take a newspaper? In any case, if you’re a smoker suffering from ‘cravings’, if you attempted in this state to do a crossword, you might feel you need a cigarette even more. And how nice to have a friend instantly available on the telephone for a good gossip!
Then, to get you in a positive mood, you’re told that ‘Fifty percent of all regular smokers will eventually be killed by their smoking – half of them in middle age.’ Thanks, I never knew that.
Suppose none of this works? Then you can follow a link directly to the NHS choices website where we’re confronted with a bold headline: ‘Stop smoking: coping with cravings.’ There we go again. And the two main ways of dealing with this? ‘Nicotine replacement therapy and prescription stop smoking medicines.’
Now let me give you the good news. This discouraging – almost defeatist – approach to smoking cessation is wrong-headed and quite unnecessary. Further, nicotine products or drugs should not be used – they make it harder to stop.
Stopping smoking is easy – if you go about it the right way.
Text © Gabriel Symonds