Quitting smoking brings to mind the U.S. Surgeon General, the American Cancer Society and American Lung Association. Most smokers have never heard of WhyQuit.com. However, a mere seven years after its founding, it is Google's 3rd ranked U.S. "quit smoking" destination (among 27 million search results) ranked ahead of the Surgeon General, Cancer Society and Lung Association. WhyQuit's popularity is a combination of word of mouth and visitors searching electronically -- and finding what they seek.
Unlike other major quit smoking sites, WhyQuit sells nothing, refuses all donations, spends zero tax dollars and receives no funds from any outside source. Instead, the site attracts and serves smokers, supports new quitters and prevents youth smoking by mobilizing others who freely volunteer their time and experience.
During the past twelve months the site received 20 million hits and recorded 1.3 million visitors who downloaded 282 gigabytes of motivation and education. Demand for WhyQuit's offerings has grown with each passing year. It's a tool made strong by the combined caring and sharing of thousands of hearts and minds.
The site's growth is attributable to the amazing love of families victimized by tobacco, of hundreds of long-term ex-smokers reaching out to people who erroneously feel trapped in an addiction that to them seems impossible to beat, and to volunteer nicotine cessation educators and counselors sharing lessons.
When it went online in July 1999 the site posed just one question, why quit smoking? Now the question is answered by firsthand and family accounts from an ever growing yet still tiny sampling of tobacco's millions of annual victims.
Visitors feel Bobbie Curtis's pain and send her notes after reading and seeing how smoking induced lung cancer ended her marriage to Bryan, who was only 34 when he died. They meet Noni Glykos, through photos and facts shared by her brother John, and come to know how Camel cigarettes killed her at age 33, six months after having given birth to her first and only child.
Readers sense the courage of 44 year-old Kim Genovy as she relates what it's like to be told you have lung cancer, to have a lung removed and learn to live without it, and to hope for the best only to be told that your lung cancer has now spread to your brain.
Visitors read Kim's inspiring messages as she stood beside and supported online quitters. "Believe me everyone," Kim pleaded, "withdrawal was and is so much easier than this 2 year cancer battle I have been fighting. The craves disappeared, the cancer hasn't."
Government data show that smoking claims half of all adult smokers, each an average of 13 years early, with one-quarter dying during middle-age. But for whatever reason surprisingly few victims openly share their battle, where smoking leads, and the consequences of failing to address a true chemical dependency that's every bit as real and permanent as heroin addiction or alcoholism.
WhyQuit brings together victims and smokers. It allows smokers to see what may lie ahead for them and reflect upon whether they are really willing to trade 13 years of life, family and friends for one chemical - nicotine.
In addition to motivation, WhyQuit offers education and support, two keys to substantially enhancing the odds of successful long-term nicotine dependency recovery. The life's work, articles, free online counseling and free quit smoking book of Joel Spitzer of Chicago form the foundation of WhyQuit's cessation education experience.
Joel has spent more than three decades, full-time, down in the trenches working with recovering nicotine addicts in seminars and clinics. This experience has given him a wealth of insight into dependency recovery, which he makes freely available to all.
"Never Take Another Puff" is Joel's free 149 page PDF quitting book. More than 400,000 copies have been downloaded during the past 12 months. The book contains 95 short articles on almost every quitting topic imaginable.
Joel also makes himself freely available at Freedom from Tobacco, WhyQuit's free online peer support message board quitting forum. At AskJoel, he fields visitor questions. He also works with the Evanston and Skokie Divisions of the Illinois Department of Health where he presents free six-session clinics and seminars to district residents.
Freedom from Tobacco is a no nonsense forum founded in September 1999. It is managed by seasoned graduate ex-smokers who have mastered Joel's lessons. Unique, its core requirement for membership is a nicotine free body (defined as complete nicotine abstinence for 72 hours). Any nicotine relapse (even one puff) permanently revokes group posting privileges.
A growing army of successful long-term ex-smokers periodically return to the group to both reenforce their own recovery and share lessons and insights with the group's newest arrivals. The cycle produces some of the most knowledgeable and non-complacent ex-smokers the world has ever known.
Freedom's members have generated more than 300,000 messages indexed on 22 subject matter message boards covering areas as diverse as crave coping techniques, overcoming the emotional loss associated with quitting, weight control and relapse prevention.
Although only a tiny fraction of earth's more than one 1.3 billion smokers have discovered WhyQuit its lessons and free quitting booklets are slowly filtering out. Joel's free book is available in Japanese and in June volunteer translators completed a German version.
Whether in English or Greek the book's most fundamental lesson will always be the "Law of Addiction: that administration of a drug to an addict will cause reestablishment of chemical dependence upon the addictive substance."
Smokers need to understand that within three days of ending all nicotine use the mind is nicotine-free and withdrawal peaks in intensity. But just one powerful puff of nicotine and their brief period of freedom and healing will be over. They're going back.
Joel condenses the "Law of Addiction" into one guiding principle that if followed guarantees success to all: just one day at a time, Never Take Another Puff!