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While government health officials have effectively suppressed, banned and outlawed support for cold turkey quitters, the art, science and psychology of successful abrupt nicotine cessation has created its own field of dreams.

John R. Polito

May 31, is World No Tobacco Day. It's a golden opportunity to motivate smokers to consider ending their slow suicide and gradual self-destruction via smoke's hundreds of toxins. But how? The vast majority have given the nicotine patch, gum, lozenge, Zyban, Chantix or e-cigs one or more tires but without success. Dying to quit, where else is there to turn?

During April 2013, U.S. health officials spent an estimated $16 million as part of an overall $48 million 12-week "Tips from Former Smokers" campaign having a short term goal of motivating smokers to either call the national 1-800-QUIT-NOW telephone quitline or visit www.smokefree.gov. Both quitline callers and those visiting the website are strongly urged to obtain and use FDA approved quitting products.

So how is the CDC's 2013 Tips from Former Smokers campaign going? The national quitline received a total of 101,634 calls during April 2013, the first full month of the campaign, more than double February's 50,410.

Although this year's campaign is still ongoing, a similar CDC Former Smoker Tips campaign last year spent $54 million. According to the CDC, the entire $54 million was spent between March 19 and June 10, 2012 and resulted in 207,519 additional quitline calls and 510,571 additional website visits. That works out to a whopping $75 dollars for each smoker who called or visited.

Field of dreams to stop smoking cold turkeyBy contrast, the nation's most popular cold turkey quit smoking site (WhyQuit.com) spent $7.64 during April 2013 (annual web hosting charge of $91.68) and has averaged 194,238 monthly unique visitors during the past year, nearly double the 101,634 April calls to 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

WhyQuit's 194,238 per month visitor total does not include visits to WhyQuit's support groups, Turkeyville, Freedom or AskJoel, to WhyQuit's Facebook or Twitter sites, to JoelSpitzer.com or viewers of WhyQuit's 400+ YouTube videos.

Government health officials are fully aware that cold turkey annually generates more long-term successful ex-smokers than all other methods combined.

Ironically, the CDC is using successful cold turkey quitters in its bid to get current smokers to purchase and use approved quitting products (at least Annette and Suzy). WhyQuit has asked the CDC about the quitting method used by each former smoker in its Tips campaign via a Freedom of Information Act request. The CDC has yet to reply.

There is also growing awareness that while replacement nicotine clobbers placebo inside randomized clinical trials, it gets trounced just as badly by real-world cold turkey quitters in population level quitting.

Table 1 from Pierce JP, Cummins SE, White MM, Humphrey A, Messer K, Quitlines and Nicotine Replacement for Smoking Cessation: Do We Need to Change Policy?, Annu. Rev. Public Health 2012. 33:12.1a 12.16

How could that be? Most obvious, real cold turkey quitters do not want, seek or wear placebo look-a-like nicotine patches. Not as obvious, placebo-controlled clinical trials have not been blind as claimed. The more quitting attempts the smoker has made, the more expert they became at recognizing withdrawal's onset.

Since June 23, 1983, the very day that nicotine gum gained initial FDA approval, health officials have known about yet ignored serious study blinding concerns.

Instead, they've shown blind allegiance to findings of paid pharmaceutical industry consultants who 17 years later would grow so bold as to declare that the method that generated nearly 40 million American ex-smokers - cold turkey - was no longer science-based. How? Because since 1996 health officials have invited and allowed consultants to serve as expert Guideline panel members in authoring official U.S. smoking cessation policy.

In June 2000, a panel on which 11 of 18 members disclosed pharmaceutical industry financial ties handed the very industry that had put money in their pockets a gift worth billions (see U.S. Clinical Practice Guideline, Appendix C, Financial Disclosures, PDF page 197).

The all-consuming policy coined in Recommendation 7 declared:

"Numerous effective pharmacotherapies for smoking cessation now exist. Except in the presence of contraindications, these should be used with all patients attempting to quit smoking."

The word "all" instantly and permanently transformed thousands of federal and state health workers into quitting product salesmen. Since then, U.S. health officials have openly discouraged smokers from attempting to quit smoking cold turkey.

More than 5 million U.S. smoking deaths later, with the CDC openly admitting that decline in the adult smoking rate has stalled, the burning question justifiably being asked is, has a national cessation policy that made pharmaceutical financial influence, defective studies and replacement nicotine its cornerstones cost millions of smokers their lives?

Is it possible for a nicotine addict's brain dopamine pathways to adjust to functioning without nicotine while it continues to arrive? Do smokers quit because of having toyed with replacement nicotine or despite having done so?

If we could ask Helen Bradford and Neil Curtis their thoughts on this question, two successful cold turkey quitters, you'd feel their anger. We can't. Both died in 2011 of lung cancer, Helen at age 50 and Neil at 53. But before dying they left us nourishing food for thought.

"When the doctors, nurses and media kept telling me that the patch doubles my chance of quitting I believed them," wrote Helen. "These guys are the professionals so they must be right. I'm the dropout so it must be all my fault that I can't stop smoking. So instead of jumping up and down and complaining that their product is faulty, I went away resigned to having to smoke for the rest of my life."

Australian smoking cessation method rates

"The second time I used NRT was when my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer. She really got on my case. She was constantly reminding me, 'Helen, smoking causes cancer!' This time I wasn't able to stop smoking even while wearing the patch. Each week the quitting nurse I was working with would tell me to not smoke while wearing the patch, but I just couldn't stop. In the end we just gave up on each other."

"I originally named my first post journal "4 Decades Of Lies" because I have been smoking for over 40 years," wrote Neil on February 9, 2011. "The lies I was talking about was aimed at the tobacco and pharmaceutical companies, and the government for letting them do all that lying to us."

July 2018 PLoS One quit smoking method effectiveness chart

On April 9, 2011, Neal wrote an article documenting his recovery. He entitled it "The Real Me vs. The Junky." There he stated, "The Real Me still wanted so badly to surface and be free from the deep, dark, jungle. I tried and tried and even enlisted the help of gums, lozenges, patches, inhalers, e-cigs, and dip. I found myself in worse shape then when I started. Not only was I still buried in the jungle, but now the lozenges were growing vines around my legs, and I could barely move."

Excerpts from an April 4, 2013 National Cancer Institute counseling chat transcript evidence the lengths government health officials continue to go in discouraging smokers from making a cold turkey attempt:

Explore WhyQuit on Friday, May 31, 2019Prior to being diagnosed with lung cancer Helen became a zealous cold turkey quitter. Constantly trying to find new ways to help smokers quit, she came up with a brilliant idea. Why not change our Facebook profile picture for World No Tobacco Day, using an image that encourages smoking friends to visit and explore WhyQuit.com?

Why WhyQuit? As Helen put it, "I really, really wanted to quit so I started looking on the Internet. I went to a New Zealand site and someone there was talking about WhyQuit. So I went and had a look. I downloaded Joel's book. It was about a week before I started reading it. But once I got going there was no looking back."

Helen realized that while WhyQuit had created a quitting "field of dreams," that our smoking friends could very well smoke themselves to death before discovering it. It isn't that they don't want to quit or can't, but that they don't know how.

This link is to an updated image of the one Helen suggested we use as our profile picture for World No Tobacco Day. https://whyquit.com/images/WNTD2019.jpg

The free e-book Helen mentioned is "Never Take Another Puff," which has logged more than 4 million downloads. Founded in 1999, WhyQuit.com sells nothing, declines donations and is staffed entirely by volunteers. It is home to the Internet's largest array of free nicotine cessation tools. They include more than 400 free video stop smoking lessons, over 100 original articles, and the sobering accounts of smoking victims such as Deborah who was 38, Bryan 34, Kim 44 and Noni 33.

WhyQuit is also the parent of Turkeyville, Facebook's most popular stop smoking support group, and Freedom, our original 1999 support group which no longer accepts members but continues to serve as a valuable reference resource.

While WhyQuit served 2,331,405 unique visitors the year this article was written, you will not find WhyQuit's link on any government quit smoking site so long as industry consultants are writing national quitting policy. The only way for your smoking friends to discover WhyQuit is if someone cares enough to point them in the right direction.

We've lost Helen but still living is her dream of helping your smoking friends achieve their greatest dream, freedom!

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Written 05/27/13 and page reformatted 08/16/18 by John R. Polito