Stoptober will be with us soon. As always, we can expect the government to roll out their absurd and rather patronising programme, to bash smokers over the head with the blindingly obvious idea that smoking is rather bad for you, and that maybe you should just stop doing it.
With their usual lack of deference to the will or intelligence of the individual smoker, and the usual lack of comprehension of the bigger picture of addiction, their broad strokes campaign aims to bully smokers into a month of cheerfully desperate submission.
The non-smoking ‘moral majority’…
This seems sure to appease the non-smoking ‘moral majority’, who apparently believe that smokers are a good target for government persecution, what with motorists ‘getting all militant’ about the exorbitant price of, well, just about everything whether it relates to cars or not.
Whether, on balance, Stoptober will actually help anyone seems somewhat secondary to the higher goal of throwing money at being seen to be saying the right things. You know, the sorts of right things of which Jamie Oliver would approve.
Before I go any further…
Before I go any further, I feel I should clarify for fear of being misconstrued. There is just the teensiest possibility that you have got the impression that I’m not impressed with the Stoptober campaign.
OK, so that’s true, but…
You may have also drawn the conclusion that I smoke like a Vatican chimney on pick-a-pope day and that I’m fed up of ‘having my rights infringed upon by all of those lefty vegetarians’…
That’s what I was worried about.
Not only am I a reformed smoker of over 15 years, a firm believer in abstinence based recovery from addictive drugs and a fervent proponent of even stricter rules governing the sale of tobacco, but I also own 3 Jamie Oliver cookery books and very much enjoyed his last TV series.
Oh, and I’ve helped hundreds of people around the world to stop smoking in my role as an online hypnotherapist.
‘So’, I hear you cry, ‘why are you saying Stoptober is a terrible idea? And did you actually make any of Jamies 30 Minute Meals in under thirty minutes?’. Well, I’m glad you asked, thank you for joining in the conversation.
My record on Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals was a disappointing 40 minutes on a second delicious attempt. The answer to the other question takes a bit more explaining.
My specific Stobjections to Stoptober :
Objection #1 – Stoptober is Patronising
My first objection to Stoptober is that it’s just plain patronising. It assumes that smokers choose to continue to smoke, and maybe they just haven’t weighed up the possible benefits of stopping. It assumes that they haven’t realised it is costing them a fortune and ruining their health. It thinks maybe a nice friendly shove, directly into the path of the on-coming juggernaut of obviously sensible life choices, is all that’s required to tempt them out of their silly, silly ways.
This, of course, is completely absurd. Smokers are well aware of their situation already and don’t need to be told that they should stop.
So the first reason Stoptober is a terrible idea is that it’s patronising.
Objection #2 – It’s the right action for the wrong reasons
My next objection is that stopping for any reason other than your own creates the feeling of deprivation, which leads to the illusion of value.
For 31 days the smoker is going to feel deprived of their dear little friend, and by the end of the month they are going to perceive so much value in it, that the chances of abstaining from that precious treat they have been craving for a whole month, is about the same chance of getting Jeremy Clarkson to do Vegetarian Fridays in an electric car.
Increasing the perceived value of a drug is clearly the worst thing you can do for someone who already feels hopelessly addicted, but this is exactly what Stoptober does.
So the second reason Stoptober is a terrible idea is that it makes the process harder.
Objection #3 – Stop smoking for 31 days? set the date for relapse!
Setting an end point sets the smoker up for relapse before they have even started. I mean stopped. I mean… well, you know what I mean.
With this rationale, the smoker will see October 31 as the finish line. If they can only make it to that date then they can continue to smoke after this point guilt free. Anyone who has anything to say about it can jolly well mind their own business, because the smoker has climbed the prescribed mountain and they don’t need to worry about it again for at least another year(ish).
Setting the date of your relapse is no way to make a permanent change!
So my third reason that Stoptober is a terrible idea is that it encourages relapse.
Objection #4 – Stoptober doesn’t work
The government’s own figure for expected failure is 80%. That’s not a typo. The government’s own figure for expected failure is 80%.
Obviously they don’t quite put it like that. In fact they say that 1 in 5 people who stop smoking for a month never start again, which sounds much better, but still means that 4 out of 5 people will start again, probably in November, which brings me to my final point.
So my fourth reason that Stoptober is a terrible idea is that most people will fail.
Objection # 5 – Stoptober is followed by Govember, obviously
The subliminal message here is clear, even if it’s somehow not obvious to those who misguidedly believe they can negotiate with a drug addict to stop them from taking their drug.
A period of abstention has both a start point and an end point, and that end point in this case is obviously Govember !!!
So my final reason that STOPtober is a terrible idea is that it’s really clearly obviously followed GOvember!
Isn’t Stoptober better than nothing?
In the respect that it stimulates discussion, then I can go as far as to agree that maybe it’s not entirely a bad thing on all levels, although I rather think this is in much the same way as the Nazis encouraged the Dutch to make better use of their loft spaces.
That one slight concession aside, I firmly believe that for the smokers it doesn’t help (and that will be most of them) it could be hugely damaging, and it could keep them smoking longer and make it more difficult to stop in the long run, if they ever manage to stop at all.
So what’s the alternative?
The people behind campaigns such as Stoptober really don’t seem to understand how addictive psychology works. Although most smokers will agree with the principle, people are actually quite resistant to a patronising busy-body who isn’t in their predicament telling them things they already know.
A respectful, mature and rational addiction education program, along with reasonable, friendly, supportive encouragement would work so much better than the thinly veiled cajoling and coercion of Stoptober. And if it doesn’t work better, at least you haven’t made the situation worse by adding guilt and resentment to the list of reasons people find it difficult to stop.
Encouraging people to make the decision to stop for themselves, and then encouraging them to make the commitment to stop permanently, will at least enable smokers to be amenable to the conversation, even if they are not ready to make that decision yet.
There is a subtle difference between encouraging people to stop and encouraging them to make the decision to stop, but addicts know the difference. Apparently, the people behind Stoptober do not.
Make the change permanent!
Let’s also forget this stupid ‘stop smoking for one month’ business. Stopping and starting is worse for morale than not stopping at all. There are no half-measures when it comes to addiction, one either stops or one doesn’t.
When an addict makes the decision to stop, they need to be given the encouragement and support to stop permanently. They need to feel good about their decision, and proud of themselves, with no second thoughts and no regrets.
Piling on guilt and the possibility of relapse does nothing to help – if anyone stops under these conditions then it is in spite of Stoptober, not because of it.
I’m putting my money where my mouth is
I offering a significant discount on my Stop Smoking programme every October. Just mention this article when we talk and I will reduce the price by £100!
I also offer you a 1-year guarantee – if you find yourself smoking at any time for up to a year from our initial session, I will help you again, absolutely free.
The best Stoptober can offer is the possibility that if you stick it out, and if you’re lucky, then one day, at some point in the future, you will no longer be a miserable ex-smoker.