CLEVELAND - When Ohio voters last fall banned smoking in public places, Richard Stone got inspired to try to quit his 15-year, one-pack-aday cigarette habit. “If I go to a bar, I want to enjoy myself and not think I have to get up every 10 minutes and go outside to have a smoke,” said Stone, 30.
“I’ve been smoking since I was 15. Mentally it calms me down. But I know the health aspects of it.”
Stone said he had tried using a nicotine replacement patch, but gave up and lit up. So this time he shelled out some cash to a hypnotist who’s combining his nightclub act with a push to quit smoking.
One man’s inspiration to stop smoking can be another man’s business opportunity — from hypnotists to makers of cigarette substitute products, anti-smoking pills, nicotine replacement therapies and more — though it’s too soon to say whether tougher smoking bans will translate into bigger business.
Arizona, Ohio and Nevada passed comprehensive smoking bans in the November election. Nevada’s exempts casino gaming floors and has been challenged in the courts. Arizona’s ban starts in May, and Ohio is finalizing enforcement rules.
The states joined Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Washington in prohibiting smoking in all private workplaces, restaurants and bars.
California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine and Vermont ban smoking in all restaurants and bars.
The National Bureau of Economic Research Inc. a year ago estimated that smoking cessation ventures overall had retail sales of nearly $1 billion annually and were spending more than $100 million annually on advertising. Its report did not include amounts spent before the surge in bans.
Stone, a carpenter’s helper, was among 50 people at a group hypnotism session in Cleveland.
Afterward, he threw away his pack of cigarettes and had no craving to smoke a few days later. He said he isn’t sure why, other than a renewed urge to be a nonsmoker.
The therapy, he said, was “weird, like I slept for two days.”
The hypnotist, Los Angeles-based performer Rich Guzzi, was advertised as a quit-smoking act at comedy club Pickwick & Frolic right next to a new “no smoking” sign Ohio’s law requires.
Guzzi says he hopes to help 100,000 people nationwide quit smoking at $50 per ticket.
“That’s a fair price for a fair program, and it’s not like I’m making a killing on it,” said Guzzi, 44, who says he is certified as a hypnotist from two national organizations.