Smoking Cessation EXpert Lou Ryan:
Ryan believes the ultimate solution is to approach the problem differently. “There’s no doubt it’s time for us to end our nation’s smoking epidemic,” says Ryan, “But if we want to win that battle we need to first understand that physical nicotine addiction is not the main issue. If it was, nicotine replacement therapy wouldn’t have such dismal success rates.” To make his point, Ryan references a 2010 Penn State study that documents the success rate for nicotine replacement therapy at just six percent. “The real culprit in tobacco addiction is literally in the mind—a specific thought process that creates the urge to smoke. The underlying issues can be a bit complex, but let me explain in simple terms.”
“A smoker was not born a smoker,” continues Ryan. “They actually taught themselves to become a smoker by repeating their smoking ritual over and over again. By doing that, and without even realizing it, they embedded in their subconscious mind a powerful emotionally-charged thought process related to smoking. And now every time that thought process is triggered – perhaps in a moment of stress or boredom, perhaps by a drink or the smell of a cigarette – it creates the urge to smoke.”
“But that’s not where it ends,” Ryan adds. “The more the smoker fights the urge to smoke, the more powerful it becomes. It keeps coming back again and again, stronger and stronger each time, until eventually it becomes so intense that it’s impossible to resist. It sweeps over their entire being, completely overwhelming them to the point that they just have to light up—no matter how strong their willpower is. That’s why most smokers find it impossible to ‘stay quit’ even if they are on nicotine replacement therapy.”
Ryan says that more than three decades of feedback from former smokers have convinced him that focusing on changing the cognitive process is by far the most effective approach to smoking cessation. “That’s because when it’s done correctly it fixes the root of the problem. The result is sustained behavior change from within, without the need for willpower.” Study data support Ryan’s viewpoint. As shown in the Penn State study, most smoking cessation treatments have less than a 10 percent success rate. By comparison, Cognitive Behavior Therapeutic approaches come in at 38 percent – almost four times higher.