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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 August 2006, 10:50 GMT 11:50 UK
Allen Carr and us
Office worker on a cigarette break

As anti-smoking guru Allen Carr begins to fight lung cancer, millions of people around the world thank him for helping them quit cigarettes. So what's behind the Carr method - and why doesn't it work for everyone?

Something of a legend in anti-smoking circles, Allen Carr has done more than almost anyone else to help those who want to quit the habit.

Carr, who used to have a 100-a-day habit, quit 23 years ago and went on to write international bestsellers on how others could follow his example. He runs clinics all over the world.

He has even turned his recent lung cancer diagnosis into an opportunity, saying he sees his illness as a way to encourage more people to quit.

So, what's different about his approach? One ex-smoker explains how Carr helped him quit instantly, while another tells how even Carr's method couldn't wean him off the fags.

Martin Asser

I'd been smoking for 15-odd years when I tried the Allen Carr method. I picked up smoking as a teenager, at parties and that sort of nonsense, and developed a habit of about 20 a day as I got older.

I gave up a couple of times - once for 18 months - using patches and sheer willpower, but always went back on the fags.

Then, when I was 30, I developed a bit of a wheeze and went to get my lungs X-rayed. I resolved to give up for good the day after I picked up the results. It was 14 July 2000 and haven't had a cigarette since.

No one led me to the Allen Carr method - I was in Waterstones, bought a couple of books on quitting, of which his was one. I read about half of it on the first day, and just quit there and then.

Carr's actually a very annoying writer but what he does is tell you, in a very repetitive way, that you are not smoking for enjoyment; you are smoking because you are addicted. The idea of the book is that you keep smoking while you read it so you can analyse why you do it.

I used to think I enjoyed smoking, but Carr made me realise that I really, perhaps, enjoyed one or two cigarettes a day - the rest were just feeding an addiction to nicotine. The brilliant thing about his method is that instead of going "cold turkey" and feeling deprived, you feel you're doing something positive. That gets you through the first three days, which are the hardest.

I've never weakened; never wanted to smoke again, even though I work a lot in the Middle East where smoking's everywhere. I've persuaded 10 others to quit using his method and the only problem now is I have to be careful not to be an Allen Carr bore.

Stephen Fottrell

Allen Carr says his lung cancer diagnosis will encourage people to quit and I could not agree with him more. I may just be one of them, but I won't re-read his book to try and achieve it.

I'm something of a part-time smoker these days - only when I have a drink in my hand - but I'm still a smoker all the same. I wouldn't even try and make any bones about that.

I've managed to cut out the cigarettes from my daily routine, now I just have to go that extra step, which is proving pretty hard I must admit. But I've gone this far on willpower and I'm fairly confident I can go that extra mile to quitting altogether using the same method.

Carr's book really didn't appeal to me. Firstly, if I decide I want to quit, then I want to quit - now. I want to cut up the fags, throw the lighters in the bin, the whole shebang, and just get on with it.

In Carr's book the whole idea is: keep smoking while I tell you about all the nasty stuff it's doing to you and how great your life is going to be after you quit. I found his tone really condescending and felt like I was constantly being lectured.

I read the book for about three weeks and then gave up on it. I just found it really annoying.

Carr and his band of loyal fag-free followers will no doubt point to the fact that I didn't finish the book as my downfall. But I just felt I'd be better off without it.

I'm literally on the brink of quitting now. All I need is the motivation. I'm fairly confident I can do this all by myself. Maybe even writing this piece will give me the boost I need.

Some of your comments on this story:

The person who quit with the book says "when I was 30, I developed a bit of a wheeze and went to get my lungs X-rayed. I resolved to give up for good the day after I picked up the results." Maybe this is the reason he was successful. In my opinion to quit you have to really really want to, and then you don't need books or patches. I know I didn't.
Mark, Bristol

I had been smoking for 15 years before I read Allen Carr's book - twice. The first time he changed my perspective and mindset, so I no longer enjoyed my 20-a-day addiction; but I couldn't quite stop smoking entirely, especially when socialising with alcohol. A year later, fed up with the morning routine of hacking up my lungs and scrubbing the brown stains from my lips and nails, I read his book again. This time I was able to stop immediately, knowing I never wanted another cigarette again. That was 10 years ago. Thanks Allen.
Claire Tennant, Bournemouth, UK

I stopped smoking at the age of 28, and have probably had about six puffs of the odd cig in 18 years since. It meant a change in lifestyle too - away from record company/media parties into a caring, perhaps more genuinely selfish role, working as a nurse in a hospice. I didn't know what to do with my hands for some months - the cigs had morphed into my whole being and I realised that I was a little nervous without something to hold. This was more than an oral fixation. Like a baby, I started looking at my hands, getting to know them - there they were. Although I stop-started there was a specific date that I recall putting out that last cigarette and it was several years before I even dared to take a puff again without inhaling fully.
Cate, Australia

Both myself and partner smoked for 20 years including cannabis. We read Allen's book whilst on holiday in December 2004. We both have not smoked anything whatsoever since then. In fact we cannot believe we ever wanted to smoke. It was the easy and we've never looked back.
Mark , Manchester

I was very sorry to hear that Allen Carr has been diagnosed with cancer - I owe alot to him... having read the book and it not quite doing it for me, I went on his half day course. That was four years ago and I haven't smoked since.
Dee, London

I have not smoked for 18 months; this was done with no stress at all, not bad for a previously 50 to 60 a day smoker. The method? Delay the first cigarette of the day, so the stress of stopping smoking is not there. I still carry my unopened tobacco pouch and cigarette papers around with me.
Ian Scott, Hull

I also quit with Allen Carr. When I read the two articles above, one thing stands out. The man who read the book and took it for what it was no longer smokes. The man who found it condescending and stopped reading still smokes.
Lynn, Leeds

I tried to read the Allen Carr book but found it very irritating. I continued to smoke until I discovered a short sharp shock method to giving up - discovering I was pregnant. My partner gave up at the same time and I have to say that no method of giving up - books, replacement therapy has ever proved so effective for either of us!
Vicky, Bangor


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