The government recently embarked on their latest absurd and rather patronising effort, 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.
This seems sure to appease the moral majority, who seem to 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, 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 also help people to stop smoking as a part of my job as a hypnotist.
‘So’, I hear you cry, ‘why are you slating Stoptober? 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.
The answer to the second question is an easy and emphatic ‘no, my record was about 40 minutes on a second delicious attempt’. The answer to the first question takes a bit more explaining.
Objection #1 – It’s 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.
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.
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.
Objection #3 – Stopping for a specific period is setting 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!
Objection #4 – It 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.
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 !!!
OK, but 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.
Let’s also forget this stupid stopping for just a 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 a person makes the decision to stop, they need to be given the encouragement and support to stop permanently, and 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.
In fear of criticism for my obviously biased opinion, hypnosis can help a smoker to stop with a growing sense of confidence and pride, and with no second thoughts and no regrets.
Hypnosis can minimise and even eliminate withdrawal symptoms. Hypnosis can help a smoker to become a happy non-smoker while they still have cigarettes in their pocket. Hypnosis can help you become a non-smoker in a matter of a couple of hours.
The best Stoptober can offer is the possibility that one day, at some point in the future, you will no longer be a miserable ex-smoker, if you stick it out and if you’re lucky.
I encourage every smoker to stop smoking, but not for 31 days, and not under duress because someone pushed you into it. Stop smoking permanently, happily and of your own free will, because you have decided that you want your life to be happier, healthier, wealthier and most importantly longer.
I’m putting my money where my mouth is
Throughout the month of October 2012, I will be offering my Stop Smoking Easily program to smokers who genuinely want to stop permanently, for half the usual price of £180 (just mention this article to get the discount.)
With my program, we will have one session, which you will leave as a happy non-smoker. We will also book an optional 1 hour booster session for a few days later, although most people don’t need this and cancel the booster session.
You will also have the option for as many further 1 hour sessions as are necessary for up to a year, and as long as you are following the instructions and you genuinely want to stop, I won’t charge you another penny.
If you have already stopped and are finding it difficult, call me – I can remove the cravings within minutes of seeing you, and if I can’t you can simply leave having lost nothing. We will then spend the rest of the session making sure the cravings will not return.
Whether you have stopped already, or whether you are still in the planning stage, call me directly on my mobile on 07967 473 691 to discuss how hypnosis can help to make the process easy, and even enjoyable.
More info on my Stop Smoking Easily program