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Am Fam Physician. 2001;63(2):219a-220

to the editor: In my practice, I have found that patients who quit “cold turkey” do the best.

If patients said, “I want to quit smoking,” they were successful.

If patients said, “I think I want to quit smoking,” they invariably failed. My answer to them was, “You will never quit. You have not made up your mind to do so. When you have made up your mind to decide to quit, you then can, and will.”

I provide them with a goal, several goals in fact, called “The Webster Plan”:

  1. When you get up in the morning take two one-dollar bills. Light a match. Decide whether you want to burn up those bills now or later: $2 per day = $750 per year. Do you want a raise? You must put that money in the bank—$14 per week—and never spend it because it will be your retirement fund. If the money gains 6 percent annual interest, you will have saved $9,890 in 10 years!

  2. One morning take your pack of cigarettes, remove one and put it aside for tomorrow. Tomorrow, take your pack of cigarettes and remove two. Each day remove one more cigarette from the pack. At the end of three weeks you will no longer be smoking cigarettes.

  3. Take an empty pack of cigarettes and place it in the place you usually kept it before. When you unconsciously reach for a cigarette and find the pack to be empty, say to yourself, “That's right! I am not smoking now.” Now, go about your business.

  4. Part of the urge to smoke is partly associated with the need to put something in your mouth. Take one swallow of water to satisfy that urge. The stomach is part of that urge, and the fact you put something in it works.

  5. Avoid groups that are smoking until you are satisfied you have really quit.

  6. Notice that your senses of taste and smell have returned, and your hands do not stink of tobacco.

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This series is coordinated by Kenny Lin, MD, MPH, deputy editor.

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