According to a Duke University health study, in the last decade three million Americans changed their minds and no longer believe smoking a pack a day poses a health risk. The report concludes the facts about tobacco causing disease and leading to 400,000 deaths a year are still facts. Only perceptions of risk have declined. Apparently, some Americans continue to disbelieve science, thanks in large part to believing fake news and alleged populists.

But as Neil deGrasse Tyson, the animated astrophysicist, once said: “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.”

Maybe there’s something else going on behind this surprising statistic. Maybe there are many people who can’t find the right method for quitting, can’t find that yellow brick road to the Oz of the nicotine-free, so it’s just easier to deny the problem is a problem.

I have been to the Wizard and so can breathe all the fresh air I want up here on the high road. I haven’t had a cigarette in more than 35 years, so my exit strategy has worked. It worked for my wife as well. We decided to withdraw together as a mutual encouragement arrangement, which began when we met a senior physician trained in hypnosis.

I entered this mind-altering bargain with a tactic employed by the Pharaohs. In Ancient Egypt many a ruler feared there was somebody somewhere trying to speed up his expiration date. So at mealtime, the Pharaoh would have his slave take the first bite. If the slave continued to live, the ruler would continue to eat. With this in mind, I asked my wife to go to the doctor first. If she survived hypnosis and began to live a life without cigarettes, then I would give it a whirl. I waited a year after her appointment. It worked.

Dr. Irvin Levitz, a retired physician from the U.S. Air Force, had a general practice in Cambridge when we made our appointments in 1981 and 1982. He reserved one morning a week for healing by hypnosis. When I called for my appointment, he asked if I was certain I wanted to quit. I said I was. He gave me an appointment for five weeks later. “From now until I see you, you can smoke like there’s no tomorrow,” he said. The object, I guessed, was to disgust myself, which I could easily do since my cigarettes of choice were unfiltered Camels.

At my appointment, I sat in a chair opposite him at his desk. Dr. Levitz spent about 40 minutes explaining the ins and outs of hypnosis, demystifying it in a calm voice, telling me I was not going to take off my clothes or bite into an onion thinking it was an apple. He then tested me for my acceptance of hypnosis, my susceptibility to the power of suggestion.

“I’m going to ask you to do something. You’re not to question me, just do it. Now please look at your eyebrows.”

I rolled my eyes upward. “You’re a candidate,” he said. “How can you fail this test?,” I asked incredulously. “President Nixon did,” he offered. He explained how as a high-ranking Air Force doctor, he was called to the White House. I can’t recall what Nixon was trying to give up or clear up with hypnosis. It wasn’t smoking. It was either biting his nails or bombing Cambodia.

But when he was asked the doctor’s test question, he rolled his head down into his lap as if trying to bring his eyebrows down to his eyes — a strange exercise, a stranger response. Dr. Levitz looked at the curled ball in front of him and informed the President he could not hypnotize him. “You see, he refused to be vulnerable in front of me.”

We then went into another room where I reclined on a chaise lounge. He sat on a chair next to me, told me to close my eyes, then think about relaxing each part of my body from my toes up to my head. Concentrate and relax. As his soft tone continued, he instructed me to place my arm on the armrest.

“I’m going to stroke the back of your hand and you will bring it up and form the head of a swan,” he said. At that point I thought he was delusional and I had just wasted $100. But, amazingly, my arm turned into a swan as if I had no control over it. The spell had been cast like a subliminal drug. The doctor was the potion. I was the vessel.

He then told me to picture images that made me happy — lying on a beach, eating good food, feeling loved — scenes that did not require cigarettes. Then he asked me to choose living over dying, to see myself without smoking. All of this digested in some nether state. I felt neither awake nor asleep. No dangling pocket watch. Just purring words.

When he brought me out of my trance with a clap of his hands, I walked out of his office and into the rest of my life with no desire for taking another smoke or for believing in anyone who doesn’t believe in science.

Arnie Reisman and his wife, Paula Lyons, regularly appear on the weekly NPR comedy quiz show Says You! He also writes for the Huffington Post.