Allen Carr – an appreciation

This article was published on the Guardian’s Comment is Free website on 29 November 2006.

Here’s to Allan Carr, a self-help guru who talked sense and gave millions the strength to quit smoking.

The anti-smoking guru Allen Carr has died of lung cancer, 23 years after having quit smoking and committed his life to helping others do the same. The cause of death may be somewhat ironic, but it matters not. Carr lived a good life, and in any case, cancer is a natural thing which would kill us all if we lived long enough.

I have personal reason to celebrate the life of Allen Carr, as it was one of his slim volumes that helped me kick the evil weed some five years ago, after having been a heavy smoker of rollup cigarettes for 22 years. The trick, it seems, lies not in nicotine patches, hypnotherapy or other expensive treatments, but in simply asking what one wants out of life, and examining lifestyle choices made. Carr may have made a living from running clinics, but he admitted that in most cases these were quite unnecessary.

So, smokers, do you really enjoy having that foul-tasting, burning stick in your mouth, smelling like an ashtray, the impaired breathing and sense of taste, and strong chance that this expensive habit of yours will kill you in your prime? Of course, it’s up to you, and no-one should deprive you of your little vices, but answer no to these questions and you are already on the way to breaking the addiction.

Tobacco is not a strongly addictive substance. The problem with it is more social and behavioural, and that is what Allen Carr realised, and lies behind the success of his method. Carr’s is is not a ‘willpower’ method to overcome nicotine addiction. These so often fail as they credit the weed with more power than it actually has. The battle is really no more than a minor skirmish.

Here’s to Allen Carr, and a life well lived.