Dr. Tom Ferguson, founder and editor of Self Care magazine and a leading spokesman in the movement to increase individual responsibility for health, says he never thought much about problems of smoking "because my readers don't smoke."
However, when a friend asked for help in drawing up some strategies for quitting, Ferguson realized that even his health-aware readers had a role to play.
Existing smoking-cessation programs, Ferguson said, were too arbitrary, too peremptory, too judgmental to get through to people addicted to cigarettes.
Such programs also failed to capitalize on support from nonsmoking friends and relatives.
Ferguson and a researcher then interviewed 200 smokers who were self-described as health-concerned.
Results of a detailed questionnaire showed smokers to be guilt-ridden, frightened and in agreement that they shouldn't smoke around nonsmokers. He found that they wanted to know things like what, if any, are the benefits of nicotine, and exactly how it works in the body, good things and bad.
They were curious about the special risks associated with smoking, such as being pregnant, taking birth-control pills or working in certain industries -- such as asbestos, plastics, quarries and others.
They wondered about their prospects if they already had a smoking-related condition such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, glaucoma, lung cancer, emphysema and asthma.
Those who believed they would be unable to quit wanted to know if there was some other way they could lower their risks of becoming ill.
From all of this, Ferguson has given them "The Smoker's Book of Health," scheduled for publication this summer by G.P. Putnam.
It offers tips and techniques for cutting down smoking, as well as alternatives to outright quitting, such as switching to lower-tar brands.
The book also regards smoking cessation, because it is such a difficult period, as a life experience akin to divorce.
Most of all, the book is non-threatening.
Says Ferguson: "This is not a book that says it's O.K. to smoke, but the point is not to scare these people. They're scared enough. Scaring them just pushes them away. The point is to give them some tools to help them take some small steps in the direction of health."