What Is Smokers Anonymous?

Rhonda Rivera

Also known as Nicotine Anonymous®, Smokers Anonymous is a 12-step program dedicated to helping people stop smoking. The majority of these meetings are held in the United States, Canada, and Brazil. Smokers Anonymous groups operate much like Alcoholics Anonymous, because the guidelines were adapted from that program. Several studies have been conducted to estimate the effectiveness of the program. While group members traditionally meet in person, many people prefer Internet groups, where members communicate on message boards and chat rooms.

Cigarettes in an ashtray.
Cigarettes in an ashtray.

Smokers Anonymous was formed by Alcoholics Anonymous members in the early 1980s. The same guidelines of the 12-step alcoholic program were used but have since been slightly changed to better fit smokers. Residents of countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia, and Brazil eventually adopted the program too. In addition, the official website is translated into many languages, allowing even more people to adopt the program. While the groups are unofficially known as Smokers Anonymous, their trademarked and official name is Nicotine Anonymous®.

A 12-step program can help smokers kick the habit.
A 12-step program can help smokers kick the habit.

An anonymous therapy group is formed when at least two people begin to meet on a regular basis. They must follow the 12 steps and welcome newcomers. The location of the meeting is up to the group members, but churches are a popular meeting place. Smokers Anonymous groups cannot charge fees or dues for membership. In addition, they are advised not to promote the group or guarantee recovery; rather, they should make people aware of the group by publicly displaying their meeting location and times.

Studies show that the 12-step anonymous programs are between 9% and 40% effective at helping members reach the ultimate goal of abstinence. The success rate of a particular group can be higher than another group using the same or similar methods. Some people are uncomfortable with the 12-step programs requiring the belief of a higher power. In fact, the programs are most often criticized due to their guidelines, which usually mention God numerous times. On the other hand, one study shows that heavy smokers are significantly more receptive to spiritual help when it comes to quitting.

Some members of Smokers Anonymous use the Internet to connect to fellow members. Message boards, chat rooms, and email are used to encourage and advise one another. These groups sometimes operate entirely online by meeting at specific times and sharing stories on how well they are doing. Some groups do a combination of in-person meetings and online therapy to always stay connected to the community. There is little research into how effective an Internet-only Smokers Anonymous group can be.

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