How Much?

The first step toward dismantling your habit, for that's exactly what we're going to do, is to get a good look at it. Always, when someone asks me for help to stop smoking, the first thing I do is ask them how much they smoke. The answer almost invariably is, "Oh, a pack to a pack and a half a day." This is a typical encapsulated description of a habit.

A pack is a unit of one. (A habit is a series of integrated, interdependent behaviors, performed in sequence, thought of as a unit of one, such as "driving" or "golfing". Both these habitual behaviors require dozens of individual behaviors.) So this person is telling me that they smoke about one to one and a half units a day, knowing that I will understand that they are talking about twenty to thirty cigarettes a day.

But what they don't consciously get is that I am understanding that they are smoking about ten hits per cigarette, and so therefore to my mind, they are telling me that they are smoking two to three hundred times a day. Each and every time you place a cigarette between your lips and draw smoke into your lungs, that is an individual act of smoking.

This first step in the process is a simple one, and will tell you immediately if you are lying to yourself about whether or not you are truly ready to stop smoking now. If you are willing to just look at your habit, then you are likely ready to first alter, then discard it. But you must know precisely what it is you are directing your subconscious to do. The details are important.

Step One is to count your cigarettes. The way this first step is performed is this. Get a short pencil, no longer than one of your cigarettes. Also get a business card with a clean back. Any piece of paper will do, but it should be at least as stiff as a regular business card, and slightly smaller than the size of the pack.

Then, when you first open your next pack and remove that first cigarette, place a mark on the back of the card, next to a letter representing the day of the week. Then slide the card between the plastic and the pack, and put the pencil into the spot where the cigarette was. Then, each time you have another cigarette, take the card out, pencil a mark on it, and just put it back.

At the end of a full seven day week, you will know exactly what your habit has been, and is likely to be in the future, if you don't do something about it now!

However, simply putting this much attention on the habit can tend to make it shrink all by itself. Historically, I've noticed that many of those "pack a day" smokers start their week smoking fifteen to twenty-five a day. But by the end of the week, that seems in many cases to drop off to six to ten.

They report that they're still smoking all they want, but they started dropping off the few extras that they'd rather pass on than count. Amazing. I don't say this will definitely happen to you, and if it doesn't, that has no bearing upon how long the process will be.

First, it will take as long as it takes, period! There is no timetable upon this work. A time-table puts pressure on you, and this is not a pressure-type process.

Second, it will not be difficult. The only seriously hard part of quitting smoking is resisting the urge to have a cigarette. You will never be required to do this. You will be able to smoke each and every time you are certain you want to. In fact, you are encouraged to smoke each cigarette you want. It is counter-productive to the method to resist the habit. This shall be a gentle, organic process of letting go. Not a violent overthrow.

So begin Week One by counting your habit, and finding out just how many cigarettes you are smoking. It is said that the wise man knows well his enemy. This is an enemy we are going to kill with kindness. But that first step is to know him.

Don't bother to read on now, until you can answer this question precisely: Exactly how many cigarettes did you smoke in the last seven days? And do not just remember when you bought the last carton and subtract what you have left. That would be an estimate. You need an exact figure.

Also, the counting does more for your brain than just giving you the number. This first step must not be short-cutted! You must, for this process to work well, count each one separately as they are smoked and record them. Then move on to Chapter Two.

NOTE: If it is too much of a struggle to get yourself to count how many cigarettes you smoke for seven days in a row, please don't bother to read on.


But please pass this book on to someone else who may need it and be better able to use it. Be sure to get it back when you really are ready!

Author's Bio: 

Mark Whalen is the author of "How to Quit Smoking Without Willpower or Struggle" and President of PresMark Publishing Co. He is now sixty-tree years old, and in excellent health, having ended his relationship with smoking cigarettes over thirty years ago.