Familiarize Yourself With Allen Carr


The title of this post is an homage to a particular wikiHow page, to be described shortly, but first a bit of history explains why this concept is mildly amusing. For background, we consult the Allen Carr obituary written by Michael Day and published by BMJ when Carr died in 2006.

Born in Britain, Carr trained as a professional accountant. Like many others before him, he quit his day job to pursue his dream, which in this case was to become the foremost anti-smoking guru. Living on money borrowed from a friend, he opened a clinic and went on to make his mark on the world by combatting nicotine with fierce and unwavering energy, helping multitudes to kick the habit.

Carr’s first book, short and deliberately repetitive, was The Easy Way to Stop Smoking. Day wrote:

Memorably, one chapter of the book entitled “The benefits of smoking” contains a single, blank page.

No information is available on whether Carr thought up that gag himself, but it is probably ancient. It has certainly been used in the recent past, as jokesters make fortunes with whole books full of blank pages titled The Wit and Wisdom of…, with the name of a despised politician inserted.

Despite its light touch, brevity, and repetitive simplicity, Carr’s book on smoking cessation was criticized by some doctors and psychiatrists as too intellectually demanding for the average layperson. If true, the Internet has corrected that deficiency with a guide titled “How to Quit Smoking by Using an Allen Carr Book.”

Step 1 is, “Familiarize yourself with Allen Carr,” which we will now continue to do. Day wrote:

He smoked his first cigarette at the age of 16. By the age of 24 he was smoking 60 a day. Twenty four years later his habit had spiraled out of control to 100 cigarettes a day.

At the same time, he observed and took notes on himself. The drug nicotine was, of course, the villain. But unlike other drugs, its addictiveness behaved strangely. Nobody was driven to light up, for instance, in the midst of a wedding ceremony. (But others might argue that plenty of addicts have white-knuckled it through a wedding ceremony, rushing out at the end to light a cigarette or take a gulp from their hip flask, or whatever. And people have sat in back rows, so they can slip out of ceremonies if need be.)

A better example might be a scenario where the constraint is absolute. It is a fact that a nurse who smokes can go through an entire 12-hour hospital shift without even thinking about smoking, because the possibility simply does not exist. At any rate, the fact is that nicotine withdrawal does not bring on the horrible cramps, hypersensitivity, cold sweats, vomiting, and seizures often seen in heroin withdrawal. Day wrote:

Instead, he speculated that nicotine provoked a “light but rapidly acquired addiction” that gave rise to a devious psychological dependence, which he called “the little voice” in the head of addicts, coaxing them to light up whenever the opportunity arose.

Carr theorized that smokers desired to “relieve the sense of anxiety or ennui created by their nicotine addiction” and to “achieve the sense of satisfaction that non-smokers enjoyed all the time — for free.”

This may have been revolutionary for him, but generations of opiate addicts had discovered the truism that, after the first few times using heroin, the honeymoon ends and the drug does nothing except alleviate the withdrawal symptoms caused by previous use. Being hooked does not mean getting high, but only getting “straight” — a state of normalcy or at least, of not-sickness.

Carr wrote several other books, including four variations on the original quit-smoking guide. Additionally, there were books on the cessation of drinking or worrying; and how to enjoy flying; and success in general. Present-day seminars also encourage the defeat of debt, gambling, caffeine, and vaping, and the development of mindfulness. The Easy Way to Stop Smoking is available from Audible.com in several listenable formats.

NEXT: The Allen Carr story continues…

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Allen Carr,” NIH.gov, 12/16/06
Source: “How to Quit Smoking by Using an Allen Carr Book,” wikiHow.com
Photo credit: mendhak on Visualhunt/CC BY-SA

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Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
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Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
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Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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