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Dr. Bankole Johnson

Dr. Bankole Johnson

Physician, psychiatrist and addiction researcher

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Damian O’Hara

Damian O’Hara

President of Allen Carr North America

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Dr. Cheryl Healton

President and CEO of the American Legacy Foundation

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Damian O’Hara on Quitting Smoking

Damian O’Hara on Quitting Smoking

Damian O’Hara serves as the president of Allen Carr North America, a company dedicated to helping individuals in their goal of quitting smoking. Carr pioneered The Easyway method, and O’Hara and the company continue to help more than 51% of their clients quit successfully. O’Hara is a former chain smoker who “tried to quit every Sunday night” and only found success after attending an Easyway session in 1998. He filled us in on the secrets of the method’s success, and what he believes individuals can do to quit smoking.

What is the Easyway method, and how is it a different way to quit smoking?

It’s really a difference of perspective. Most other methods used to quit smoking are based on the principle of deprivation, which is why so many people experience quitting as a miserable process. Other methods use a lecturing approach, which tends to induce guilt. Most people also take a negative approach to quitting smoking, meaning that they expect quitting to be miserable. But, it doesn’t have to be this way. We have had countless reports from those who have used our methods and said that they were surprised at how enjoyable the process was, even right from the very beginning. It’s all about getting your head in the right place.

Why isn’t willpower enough to quit smoking?

When you choose to quit [by] using willpower, you likely haven’t changed your core beliefs about smoking. When you take away the desire to smoke, then it doesn’t require any willpower to avoid smoking. Think about it. It doesn’t require any willpower to keep from sticking your face in a blender, right? Of course not, because you know that there is nothing anyone could say to convince you that sticking your face in a blender is a good idea. You can reach a similar point about smoking, where any arguments in favor of smoking are no longer persuasive at all. At that point, there is no more need for willpower because smoking isn’t something you want to do.

Isn’t nicotine addictive? How can quitting smoking be as simple as just changing your beliefs?

We know that nicotine is physically addictive, but what most people don’t realize is that when you’re a smoker you are experiencing nicotine withdrawal all day, every day. Within 20 minutes after finishing a cigarette, your body is already 50% nicotine free. Actually, in the first hour after finishing a cigarette, the worst of the physical withdrawal from nicotine is already over. And after six hours of sleep, by the time you wake up, 97% of the nicotine is out of your system. Therefore the physical component of quitting smoking cannot be responsible for the largest share of the difficulties that most people experience at that time.

In reality the majority of the symptoms that people report experiencing while quitting smoking are psychological. In some ways, it’s similar to a panic attack, and the panic is over the knowledge that they can’t ever have a cigarette again. If at the last time you have a cigarette, you still believe that smoking is a part of your identity, quitting smoking will be unpleasant not because of physical withdrawal but because of a feeling of deprivation. It’s the conflict of wanting a cigarette but not allowing yourself to have one.

What are the thought processes that have to be changed to make it easier to quit smoking?

When we examine it, we can see that these beliefs about smoking that we cling to are all just illusions. The most common beliefs center around the supposed benefits of smoking. Of course, there must be benefits, or else we wouldn’t keep doing it. You’ve heard all of these myths before. Smoking reduces stress. Smoking manages our weight, and it helps us relax. And yet, these 21st-century illnesses, stress and obesity, continue to get worse, despite the fact that smoking is supposed to prevent them. When you strip away these illusions, you can see that there’s really nothing left to keep you smoking. Quitting smoking isn’t like losing a friend. It’s killing an enemy.

How can someone be successful in the first 30 days of quitting smoking?

Embrace the change. If you perceive that it will be difficult to quit, then it will be. But, the opposite of that is true. If you expect it to be easy, it will. It’s actually incredibly liberating to be free of the smoking habit. When you’re trying to quit from the perspective that it’s too hard, you’re more likely to fail. But, you still do want to quit, which sets up an inaccurate feeling that you are a slave to the nicotine. But, there is actually great joy in choosing to quit and to embrace it as a positive experience. When you realize that you are finally free, you begin to understand how much power you have over all aspects of your life. When you change your thoughts, you change your life.

What are some of the emotions people may experience in the first 30 days of quitting smoking?

When they quit, they feel conflicted. Part of them wants to quit, but part still wants to smoke. This conflict leads to feelings of doubt and deprivation and these lead to the feelings of fear and anxiety that so many smokers associate with quitting. When someone gets it right, the overwhelming feelings are of relief, empowerment and excitement. There are no negative emotions at all.

How can people work to overcome these emotions or combat them before they arise?

The idea of our program is to remove the fear and doubt usually associated with quitting. The only way to do this is to challenge the belief systems upon which the desire to smoke is based.

Smokers believe that smoking relieves stress, or helps them concentrate. We demonstrate to smokers that their beliefs about smoking are flawed, and we help them challenge those beliefs. For example, if smoking relieves stress, then why aren’t smokers less stressed than non-smokers? By challenging those beliefs it’s possible to remove the desire to smoke. With no desire to smoke, it doesn’t take willpower not to do so. With no conflict of will, there are no feelings of doubt and deprivation and none of the associated feelings of panic and anxiety.


What is the belief that you personally go to during times of change?

Change is constant. If I’m not changing, I’m effectively going backwards. Change is an integral part of life. [Change] is to be embraced.

The best thing about change is…

…it gives us the opportunity to learn something new about ourselves.

What is the best change you have ever made?

When I quit smoking. As a smoker, my life was dominated by my need to smoke. The sense of freedom I have as a non-smoker is wonderful.

For more information on Damien O’Hara and the Easyway method, visit www.theeasywaytostopsmoking.com.

Posted: 2/12/08