The shocker of the TV series Mad Men, about a Manhattan advertising agency in the early 1960s, is the freedom, the elan, the absolute je ne sais quoi with which people smoked. And not just some people — everyone.
Janitors lit up as they vacuumed floors, housewives while they flipped through magazines in bed, romantic couples over restaurant tables; even their waiter might have a butt smoldering at the side of his mouth as he takes their order. Cigarette smoking bosses lean over their secretaries’ shoulders to check for typos while the secretaries send white chimney streams right back at them.
What a paradigm shift we’ve made!
We’ve so stigmatized smokers these days you’d think this shunning alone would stop anyone from lighting up ever again. But no. We’ve simply produced a pathologically furtive class of people. For while smoking isn’t illegal the habit is so disgusting to nonsmokers that smokers now must skulk about as if they’ve just buried bodies for the mob but haven’t been home yet to shower off the gore.
And not until smokers have quit will they realize they so reek of tobacco that no amount of Febreze can annihilate it.
Unlike the dapper men and elegant women in Mad Men, today’s smokers look pathetic. Advertising campaigns have come right out and said so, mincing no words. A new Facebook site declares, “Underage Drinking and Smoking Makes You Look Like a Loser.”
Plus smoking kills. It really, really kills.
The American Cancer Association puts the yearly mortality rate at 443,000. But if the big numbers don’t crunch for us, nor photographs of charred black lungs, there are the small, personal heartbreaks and the loved ones we’ve lost to lung cancer. Mine were Vicky Kramer and Jean Farat, both of whom died of lung cancer in their early fifties.
And yet even with all the ostracizing, the loser label, sickness and dying young there are still people who smoke. It is an addiction, after all, one of the hardest to quit.
Well, one promising book has helped millions to stop smoking. It is called The Easy Way to Stop Smoking: Join the Millions Who Have Become Non-Smokers Using Allen Carr’s Easy Way Method.
Whether those numbers can be believed, this book has proven a miracle for several Vineyarders.
I found out about Allen Carr’s book from my friend Lisa Rohn. At the library she told me how her friend, South Mountain architect, author, and visionary John Abrams, had strolled out into the night air for a smoke with a several-pack-a-day buddy who’d joined him for a visit. When the friend refrained from pulling out his pack, John asked “What’s up?” His buddy declared he’d quit the minute he read the last page of Allen Carr’s book.
“No way,” John said. Then he read The Easy Way and smoked no more. His wife, Chris, rushed the copy over to Lisa so she could give it to her boyfriend, the on-again, off-again smoker (and pianist and composer) Brian Hughes.
Brian had tried to quit a thousand times. His favorite story of starting up again was during a trip to Russia in 2000. “I was in a dive bar in Volgograd,” he said. “They sold cigarettes singly, so I bought one with my beer. I went a full two weeks before I bought another single cigarette in a bar in Kiev. Naturally, I thought I was no longer addicted. Then I had another one in Luvov, another one in Budapest and two in Zagreb. After that I was back to smoking daily.”
Brian said Allen Carr states that there will be two kinds of people reading his book: Those who stop smoking and those who don’t. The ones who don’t will be those who don’t finish the book.
Allen Carr covers every last tic, myth, neurosis and misapprehension about quitting smoking. Brian said what resonated for him was the author’s contention that when a person lights up a cigarette he or she is unconsciously reproducing the neutral zone of the nonsmoker. With the nicotine craving dissolved for the time being, the smoker feels just like a nonsmoker who has no craving whatsoever. So why not be one of those lucky persons all the time?
On the last page, Brian said Mr. Carr instructs you to put down the book, journey outside and thoroughly enjoy your last smoke. Brian waited until midnight to perform this chore. Under a full moon he inhaled down to the nub. He had no idea whether or not he’d relish a fresh cigarette in the morning. The miracle was that he didn’t. The next day and the next day after that he no longer had any urge to smoke. He joined the millions in Allen Carr’s seemingly hyperbolic title.
Every ex-smoker has a different story. Mine was that I wanted to have a healthy pregnancy. Then I didn’t care to blow smoke in my baby’s face. My mother quit when she read in Time Magazine back in the mid-60s that smoking robs you of, on average, eight years of life. She loves to travel and hated to think of forfeiting eight years of it. Last summer she spent her 90th birthday in Paris.
If quitting smoking was your New Year’s resolution and you’re still burning your lungs (plus your bladder, throat, cervix, kidneys and pancreas according to the Surgeon General), don’t give up. Read Allen Carr’s book. Talk to ex-smokers to find out their inspiring stories. Read the accompanying interview with Dr. Gerry Yukevich about some of the medical remedies that can help. You’ll be a loser no longer.
And with all the money you save (cigarettes now cost $9 a pack) you can buy yourself a Maserati or help feed the earthquake victims in Haiti.