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Welcome!

I’m a Tobacco Treatment Specialist (stop smoking coach and counselor) in private practice.  I have a commercial website (hypnosmoke.com) where you can learn about my methods and services, here on this blog I try to answer as many questions as I can about smoking, vaping, tobacco, nicotine and TCH use.

I’m also a Psychotherapist and Certified Hypnotherapist —  I often use hypnosis and NLP in my practice — so my answers often include references to attitude, perception and the language of self-directed behavior change.

I hope you find the information here helpful if you are trying to stop smoking, or useful if you also work with tobacco users , or just interesting if you are … just interested.

Please feel free to ask questions!

— Frank

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Q: How can I stop smoking forever?

Step #1 : Stop “Trying to Quit.”

A smoker who is “Trying to Quit” says, “I want to smoke, but I shouldn’t.“

Step #2: Become and Remain a Nonsmoker by Choice.

A nonsmoker says, “I could smoke anytime I want to, but I don’t want to.”

Smokers who are “Trying To Quit” spend their time and energy trying to “fight the addiction” — they worry about nicotine dependence, habitual behaviors, lies and excuses. Naturally, that all feels like punishing hard work.

Technically, yes, smoking functions as a type of addiction in all three of these ways — but there is nothing about that fact which prevents people from stopping easily, immediately and permanently.

I’ve seen heavy smokers — multiple packs per day — who, one day, just stop. Cold turkey. They don’t struggle, crave or relapse. They say it was easy.

Meanwhile, other smokers — even light smokers — complain that quitting is too hard and they are not able to do it, that the “addiction” is so severe, worse than heroin even! These are famous excuses that serve one purpose only — they defend and rationalize continued smoking for the person who accepts them.

Those who struggle and fail are doing two things wrong:

  1. They don’t stop completely. They try to cut down or replace the nicotine with NRT or vape. If they do stop for a while, they celebrate by having some nicotine later on, and they fall right back to their prior habit.
  2. They hold on for dear life to their deeply ingrained (and drug-reinforced) stories about smoking. Those stories are based on illusions of preference and/or addiction — “I need it, I like it, It helps me, I can’t stop, It’s too hard, It’s not a good time to change, Quitting Sucks.”

Those who stop easily are do the exact opposite of those things:

  1. They stop completely, cold turkey. No nicotine at all ever again for life. To a smoker, that sounds like it would be the hardest way to go, but in fact it’s the thing that makes it easy and it’s only thing that works. Anybody who ever quit successfully eventually stopped completely.
  2. They reject their old lies and excuses and decide to adopt a new and completely different narrative. They create new and powerful stories that are reinforced by self-esteem and self-efficacy — “I prefer being a nonsmoker, I chose this on purpose, I feel better physically as a nonsmoker, I feel better about myself for being in control, smoking doesn’t serve me in any way, I reject it completely as a way of life. “

The difference is all about perspective — and you have complete control over that (though most people don’t realize it). Language creates perspective is reality. Want to change reality? Change your perspective.

Move the camera.

When you know that the experience of being a nonsmoker is the one you prefer, the one you selected by adult, informed, personal choice — by preference —that’s when it becomes simple to sustain every day for the rest of your life.

Because we never struggle when we’re getting what we really want.

William James (19th century American philosopher) said:

“As human beings, our greatest weapon against stress is the ability to choose one thought over another.”

Epictetus (1st century Greek slave and Stoic philosopher) said:

“We are not troubled by events. We are troubled by our opinions about events.”

I say it’s up to you. Whether you believe that the simple act of not smoking is a wonderful freedom to be enjoyed for life, or a horrible punishment to be avoided at all costs, you are guaranteed to experience the result of your own opinion.

All you have to change is your mind.

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Get Your Story Straight

Cognitive Dissonance refers to the internal, mental conflict that inevitably arises whenever your own beliefs and your own behaviors are in conflict with each other.

When you are unwilling to do what you know to be right, or you intentionally do what you know to be wrong, you experience this inner conflict to some degree. One consequence of intense cognitive dissonance is a steady erosion of self-esteem.

Self-esteem can be influenced somewhat by external sources (positive or negative things other people say about you, for instance) but it’s primarily derived from internal consistency — from you yourself being able to do what you believe in, and being able to believe in what you’re doing.

The consistency itself is what matters most, much more than any details of the specific beliefs or behaviors. If you happen to be carrying around a discrepancy or disconnect between your own beliefs and your own behaviors, you’ll feel that steady erosion of self-esteem every time the subject comes up. And we don’t like that feeling.

Self-esteem is so important to humans that our need to preserve it creates an instinctive psychological drive to change. Dissonance creates a desperate desire to change something so we can achieve consistency and eliminate the problem.

But what can we change? The beliefs? The behaviors? It depends on the topic.

For a real world example

Addiction is the classic model. Let’s use cigarette smoking in particular. We all have the same belief about smoking, all of us including smokers are fully aware that it’s a bad idea. But many people do it anyway. If you know it’s a bad idea, but you’re doing it anyway, you experience cognitive dissonance.

In this example, smokers don’t have the option of changing the beliefs. Because you can’t honestly convince yourself that smoking is a good idea. You certainly canchange the behavior, but smokers tend to put that off as long as possible.

Well, if you can’t change the belief, and you won’t change the behavior, the dissonance remains, the drive persists, and there’s only one other thing it’s possible to do in a last-ditch desperate effort to protect self-esteem —

We rationalize.

“I KNOW it’s bad,” the smoker says, “and I shouldn’t do it. BUT let me tell me why it’s okay for me to go ahead and have just this one, just for now. Maybe just this one pack.”

  • “— but I’ll quit soon.”
  • “— but I’m really stressed.
  • “— but it’s a special occasion.”
  • “— but I’m trying to quit.”
  • “— but no one will know.”
  • “— but I’m only hurting myself.”
  • “— but I heard it’s not really that dangerous.
  • “— but I tried quitting before, and I failed.”
  • “— but I can quit anytime.”
  • “— but I deserve this, it’s my choice.”
  • ‘’— but I need it … I’m addicted.”

“But— But — But— You sound like a motorboat.” — Groucho Marx

That great big “BUT” is the trademark of Cognitive Dissonance. If you hear yourself making these kinds of statements — deep down, you already know what’s wrong.


How to Eliminate Cognitive Dissonance in Three Easy Steps

Step #1 – Figure out if it’s the belief or the behavior that is wrong.

  • Okay that step may not always be automatically easy. Maybe some kind of coaching or therapy can help to figure out what those actual core beliefs are and whether they are rational or not.

Step #2 – Change the one that’s wrong.

  • Okay changing isn’t always easy-peasy either, and maybe expert support or advice can help with the particular change you want to make. But once you get #1 and #2, you will automatically get—

Step #3 – Experience internal consistency and improved self-esteem.


This is not a new idea. 2000 years ago, Greek philosophers defined the classical ideal of “Virtue” as the intrinsically rewarding internal state we experience when we take responsibility and control over the only two things we can control in life — our own actions and our own opinions.

But here’s my modern version, a handy reference chart.

  • If you know a thing is wrong, but you do it — you feel wrong.
  • If you know a thing is wrong, so you don’t do it — you feel right.
  • If you know a thing is right, but you don’t do it — you feel wrong.
  • If you know a thing is right, so you do it — you feel right.

“When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. That’s my religion.”

— Abraham Lincoln

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Q: Why do smokers say they could quit if they wanted, but don’t?

Take a moment and think of some behavior that you don’t like doing, something that is also a behavior that you don’t have to do.

You don’t like it, and you don’t have to do it. Got one?

OK, now answer this. How much time will you spend doing such a thing?

That’s right. Zero minutes. If you don’t like it, and you don’t have to do it, you are simply not going to do it all all. Ever.

Now imagine that you woke up one day and realized that you’ve been doing this thing anyway. For a whole week. Or a month. Or a year, or decades. If you don’t understand the actual factors that have led you to keep doing this undesired, unnecessary thing, how can you possibly explain it to yourself?

Simple. You say, “Well, if I have been doing this thing for 20 years, it’s obvious to me that either I must like it, or else I must have to do it. Because otherwise I would not be doing it at all. Q.E.D.“

Smokers play the two sides of this argument against each other, often many times per day. With one cigarette, they may say “I could quit any time I want to, I’m just doing this because I really like it.” But later that same day they are just as likely to say “Ugh, I really hate this, but I can’t stop because I’m really addicted.”

Which one is true? Neither. But the only other option is to admit a complete lack of self-awareness of what’s going on in our own minds and our own behavior.

And we never like to do that!

Website: HypNoSmoke / NicotineFree

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Q: Why does it seem that mainly the economically disadvantaged smoke?

A LOT of data confirms that we have more than just perception at work here. There is definitely a higher prevalence of smoking in demographics related to lower socioeconomic status. it breaks down like this:

Individual Smoking Rates By Category

Income:

  • At or above poverty level – 14%
  • Below poverty level – 25%
  • Homeless – 70–80%

Highest Education Level:

  • College Degree – 8%
  • GED – 41%

Occupation

  • Professionals – 13% Smokers
  • Mining – 27% Smokers, 19% Smokeless
  • Construction – 30% Smokers, 8% Smokeless
  • Military – 32% smokers, 21% Smokeless

US Geography

  • East coast / West Coast / Agricultural ~ 15%
  • Deep South / Appalachia / Mining & Industrial ~ 25%

The differences are not being caused by any of the social stereotypes you might have imagined about individuals in these categories. The main initiating and sustaining reason for the obvious disparity is that Big Tobacco has always paid very special loving attention to low SES consumers in all of their historical marketing and advertising strategies.

We all know that political organizations have extraordinarily detailed and insightful data on the demographic makeup of every neighborhood across the nation — to get the votes they are looking for they know exactly who to target and how to reach them where they live.

Big Tobacco uses the exact same information to their commercial advantage.

Tobacco sales are almost invisible in many upscale suburban communities, but inner city and deep rural, low income neighborhoods (in the US) are bombarded with print, poster and billboard advertising, have a higher density of tobacco retail outlets, more aggressive point-of-sale marketing strategies, and are heavily targeted for direct mail coupons, free cigarette giveaways (where legal) and tobacco-brand sponsored merchandise and public events.

Tobacco ad dollars always target the very poorest people, the poorest neighborhoods and the poorest countries because they know that low SES individuals are more likely to live and work where there are fewer social restrictions on smoking, fewer enforced regulations on smoking, and where residents are less likely to have access to tobacco education programs, quality personal health care, or public health resources.

In the immortal words of one R.J Reynold tobacco executive:

“We don’t smoke the shit, we just sell it. We reserve the right to smoke for the young, the poor, the black and the stupid.”

HypNoSmoke / NicotineFree

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Q. Can smoking weed ease a heartbreak?

It might distract you from heartbreak for a while, or it could just as easily do the opposite. Either way, it will eventually wear off and the original reason for the heartbreak will not have changed as a result of your experience while high.

The thing about hallucinogens (weed is a mild one) is that they tend to amplify whatever mood or state of mind you bring to them. So if you are feeling very depressed or anxious when you get high — well, you might enjoy feeling giggly, stoned or stunned for a bit, but then it could also run you down to feeling deeply morose or paranoid – depending on your psychological state and energy level.

Recreational drugs can produce chemically triggered emotional states, but they can’t do anything at all about the underlying causes of real-world emotions. Especially if being a drug user is in any way related to the real-world problem.

You can, however, use your “real-world” mind intentionally, to create permanent changes in the way you perceive life and the way you feel about things. That’s an effect you can create on demand at any moment, and it’s free.

There are a number of drug-free ways to get there — After trying weed-therapy unsuccessfully for a few decades, I personally found that a combination of physical exercise and Stoic philosophy has pretty much eliminated my previous tendencies towards anxiety, depression and heartbreak.

Good luck!

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