Allen Carr’s letter to Tony Blair and ASH’s response.

Friday 15 December 2006

ASH news release:  For immediate release:  Friday 15th December 2006
ASH was saddened to hear of the criticism levelled at ASH, the Department of Health and other organisations involved in helping people to stop smoking, in an open letter to Tony Blair apparently written on the day he died [1].The late Allen Carr had a genuine personal commitment to helping people stop smoking and his methods rely on types of counselling known to help smokers quit. Indeed ASH quotes Allen Carr in our top tips on quitting [2]. ASH questioned the success rate after 12 months of over 53% claimed by Allen Carr.

ASH has subsequently been made aware of two uncontrolled observational studies claiming high success rates for Allen Carr’s method, one published [3] and one in press [4]. Both report long-term quitting in over 50% of smokers using Allen Carr’s method.

However, because the studies are retrospective assessments, without clearly defined standardised endpoints, it is not possible to determine the reliability of the success rates quoted in these studies. It is also not possible to tell how these results compare with those of methods currently used by the NHS because insufficient information is given to know whether like is being compared with like.  To determine this it is necessary to assess Allen Carr’s method in the context of properly designed randomised controlled trials. This is accepted practice in medicine.

Both studies of the Allen Carr method assume that success rates in quitting were the same in smokers who provided information in the follow up study and those who couldn’t be contacted. Good practice is to work on an ‘intention-to-treat basis’, which assumes that those who can’t be contacted have relapsed into smoking. On this basis neither of these studies supports the assertion in the letter to Tony Blair that the success rate of Allen Carr’s method after 12 months “is over 53%”.

In order to compare the success rates claimed by Allen Carr with those of the NHS Stop Smoking Services, as claimed in the letter to Tony Blair, it is necessary to compare the method with NHS practice under scientific conditions in a randomised controlled trial using clear, consistent, standardised and independently validated smoking cessation outcomes. The trial should allocate smokers wanting to quit randomly either to Allen Carr’s method or to an NHS Stop Smoking group with access to nicotine products, and measure and validate cessation in both groups in exactly the same way, so that their relative success rates under the same conditions can be determined. To date, to our knowledge, no such comparative study has been reported or is in progress. We would be happy to try to help facilitate such an experiment which would be of great value in providing comparable statistical information.



Notes and links:

[1]  See An Open Letter to Tony Blair from Allen Carr, 27/11/06

[2]  ASH Factsheet no.24: Stopping smoking – ASH’s 15 Tips (pdf)

[3]  Hutter, HP et al  Smoking cessation at the workplace: 1 year success of short seminars.  Int Arch Occup Environ Health 2006; 79: 42-48

[4]  Moshammer H and Neuberger M.  Long term success of short smoking cessation seminars supported by occupational health care.  Addictive Behaviors 2006 (in press)


Contact: Deborah Arnott  020 7739 5902 (w) 079 7693 5987 (m) ISDN available


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