Gather the family around the table and complete the Uncle Ozzie smoking quiz: see if you can solve the puzzle that modern neuroscience can't seem to get to the bottom of.

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The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, April 23, 2008. This blog post also appeared on Stanton's Addiction in Society blog at PsychologyToday.com.

How to Quit Addiction: The Uncle Ozzie Quiz

Modern neuroscience struggles to end addiction, but it seems addiction is as commonplace and hard to stop as when Uncle Ozzie did fifty years ago.

My uncle Ozzie died last year, at age 92. He quit smoking permanently fifty years earlier. He had been smoking for a quarter century at that point, having begun at age 18.

I came home from college for my grandfather's funeral around that time. I noticed Ozzie NOT smoking, and asked him why he had quit. He told me this story:

I was in a bar having lunch. They had just raised the price of cigarettes from $.30 to $.35. As I put my money in the machine, a woman co-worker said, "Look at Ozzie. He's a real sucker for the tobacco companies. They've got him by the short hairs. If they raised the price of cigarettes to a dollar, he'd pay."

I said, "You're right. I'm quitting."

She asked me, "Can I have that pack you just bought?"

I said, "What, and waste 35 cents?" I smoked that pack and haven't smoked since.

Ozzie, how long did you smoke?

Twenty-five years. I started when I was 18. I smoked four packs a day of unfiltered Pall Malls. I kept a cigarette lit constantly next to me at my work bench (Ozzie repaired radios and televisions). I had a nasty habit. My fingers were stained yellow with nicotine.

Did you think much about quitting?

I never thought about it before that moment.

I should tell you this about Ozzie. He was a militant union man. He was shop steward at his company. Whenever a fellow employee was in trouble, Ozzie went to bat for them. Ozzie was constantly punished by management for his activism. They sent him to the roughest parts of the city to make repair calls. (Of course, the people there loved Ozzie - he was coming to fix their TVs!)

Please answer the following quiz about Uncle Ozzie:

  1. Why did Ozzie quit smoking that day, based on a few words from a co-worker?
  2. How can a simple thought overcome a powerful quarter-century addiction?
  3. Ozzie had a small daughter and a teen son, but he didn't quit smoking because of them, even though he was a good father. Why didn't he?
  4. What about Ozzie's withdrawal?
  5. Describe Ozzie's behavior from the framework that addiction is a chronic brain disease.