Science and Allen Carr’s Cognitive Method


The official website of Allen Carr’s Easyway, which began as a quit-smoking program and expanded in many directions, claims 30 million recoveries from the traps of nicotine, alcohol, gambling, obesity, and more.

As we have seen, dozens of prominent and accomplished people generously endorsed Carr’s method before his death in 2006, and have continued to since then. Corporations can hire Easyway for workplace programs, because if people kick nicotine to the curb, this will “improve staff well-being, reduce stress, reduce absenteeism and save US $6000 per year per smoker.”

Yet despite a good head for public relations, and wide acclaim from the media and grateful clients, Carr was scorned during his lifetime by much of the medical profession, which scoffed at the absence of controlled clinical trials in the traditional format. What about the science? What about peer review?

Contemporaries bristled at his claim of 90% success in curing nicotine addiction. Apparently, Carr based this statistic on the number of graduates who did not claim the money-back guarantee. The economics of the money-back guarantee vary from one area of business to the next. Sometimes, even unhappy customers don’t want to bother with the details of applying for a refund. This would not be a reliable metric.

Also, to say that 90% of the participants quit smoking means that they were still not smoking three months in. After a year, the success rate fell to 51% — which is still pretty good. But, in this big world, there are plenty of temporary solutions, and then the mojo wears off.

In the realm of addictions and consumption disorders, “long-term” is the holy grail, the gold standard. If a research team were to round up all the living participants from those early years, how would the picture look?

Recent smoking cessation research

A study titled “The effectiveness of the Allen Carr smoking cessation training in companies tested in a quasi-experimental design” was published in 2014. The Conclusion section says:

Smokers following the ACt [Allen Carr training] in their company were about 6 times more likely to be abstinent, assessed after 13 months, compared to similar smokers in the general population. Although smokers in both conditions did not differ significantly on 14 variables that might be related to cessation success, the quasi-experimental design allows no definite conclusion about the effectiveness of the ACt. Still, these data support the provision of the ACt in companies.

The Easyway website quotes the Irish Sunday Times (available by subscription) which said last fall:

The TobaccoFree Research Institute (TFRI) began the first randomized, controlled trial into Carr’s method, a cognitive technique that convinces smokers that nicotine dependence is illusory…

Three hundred smokers were recruited last year, with 151 attending Allen Carr clinics in Ireland and 149 referred to the HSE’s Quit service. Preliminary analysis suggests the Allen Carr method is more effective than Quit at both one and three months.

After a month, 37.7% of those using the Allen Carr method had given up, compared with 20.1% using Quit. After three months 26.5% of the Easyway quitters were still off cigarettes, compared with 14.8% of those on the HSE scheme.

When the study was being organized, Allison Bray published a very detailed description of the parameters, the recruitment process, and so on.

Out in a blaze of glory

Throughout his career, Carr attacked the proponents of other smoking cessation methods. As someone who took personal responsibility for curing 25 million smokers, he necessarily felt that everyone else was wrong. He especially denigrated the concept of nicotine replacement therapy through the use of gum, lozenges, patches, and whatever other delivery methods were available at the time.

The Action on Smoking and Health organization (ASH) attracted his virulent scorn, as he suspected that their support for nicotine replacement therapy was merely a cover for accepting corporate payola. This extreme animosity led him to spend some time writing an open letter to ASH, during his last day on earth.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Allen Carr’s Easyway,”, undated
Source: “The effectiveness of the Allen Carr smoking cessation training in companies tested in a quasi-experimental design,”, 09/13/14
Source: “Irish Sunday Times: Allen Carr’s Easyway Beats Health Service in Study,”, September 2017
Source: “Irish study to find best way to quit smoking for good,”, 07/26/15
Image credit: National Library NZ on The Commons on Visualhunt/No known copyright restrictions

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

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
TEC and UNC 2016

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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