You can't call this book a million seller -- because it's not for sale. "Never Take Another Puff," a 149 page quit smoking e-book has now recorded its one millionth Internet download. It's a blockbuster that hasn't earned a nickle. And that's the way its author, Joel Spitzer of Evanston Illinois, wants it.
Since 1976, Joel Spitzer has presented over 1,000 live quitting programs, including more than 350 twelve-hour clinics spanning two weeks. Today he presents quit smoking programs for the Evanston Department of Health and Human Services, is education director at WhyQuit.com (a totally free quitting forum that accepts no public or private funding and declines all donations), provides daily lessons to 5,000 members at Freedom from Tobacco (a free online peer support forum), fields an endless stream of online quitting questions at AskJoel, and his articles are widely shared at nearly all Internet cessation forums.
So why would the man who may be America's most accomplished smoking cessation counselor insist on making his life's work freely available to all? "It may seem like a radical approach," says Joel, "but it allows us to reach the most people possible, and takes away claims that we're in this for profit."
"After doing clinics for some time, I began to encounter more and more people being ravaged by smoking induced diseases. I really began to see the dangers of smoking -- not from the view of national statistics, but now from the view of people I knew and cared about." Joel watched as smoking induced cancers, circulatory disease and COPD claimed countless lives. The urgency for action grew with each passing year.
The book teaches that the battle to recover from nicotine dependency -- one of earth's most captivating chemicals - is far easier to do with the lights on, that knowledge is power.
The book is a collection of more than 90 short letters that Joel sent clinic participants over the years that contain lessons that are unlike any smokers have previously heard. The book treats nicotine dependency recovery as a true chemical addiction. It teaches and merges the "law of addiction" with a do-able "one day at a time" cessation philosophy.
As of August 15, WhyQuit had recorded 1,000,533 downloads of Never Take Another Puff since August 2005. This count does not reflect downloads of foreign versions, including German and Japanese, copies hosted at other Internet sites, or the thousands of printed copies that health organizations, civic groups and even prisons have printed and freely distributed.
Readers learn the importance of maintaining stable blood sugar, how anger, stress and alcohol use impacted nicotine reserves, the five phases of emotional loss they'll need to recognize and expect, how to navigate smoking fixation, minimize weight gain, and evaluate alcohol use when quitting.
"When writing the original letters back in the early 1980's, I never imagined them being used worldwide and translated into numerous languages. They were follow-up letters to people who had graduated from my stop smoking clinics. I was excited to be able to continue to support them."
"I remember when I wrote, 'My Cigarette, My Friend' and thinking I will never top this one, and feeling a little sad once I mailed it out to the 1,500 people or so who were clinic graduates at that time. I recall feeling that my best work, which would probably have the greatest impact, was now behind me."
Joel was clearly wrong. In fact, his latest contribution may be his best yet. In September of 2006 he started recording video quitting lessons on a wide range of topics. By December the number being shared at WhyQuit had grown to 64. Although still relatively new, an average of 1,400 video lessons are being downloaded daily, with more than 400,000 viewed to date.
"I have mixed feelings now when looking back on the impact of these materials," says Joel. "In one way I am saddened. When I was writing the earliest letters I'd hoped that in ten or twenty years the articles would be obsolete, in that most people would no longer be smoking. Not because of my efforts, but because the world would catch onto the travesty that smoking was, and most people would have quit."
"I still hope at some point in time that all of these materials will become unnecessary and obsolete. Until then I'm thrilled that they are helping many to realize that even if the world at large isn't getting it yet, that those who read the e-book or watch the videos are mastering the key to quitting, which is simply to make and stick to a personal commitment to Never Take Another Puff."