During a break after the first hypnosis session at Tuesday night's stop-smoking seminar, many of the attendees came out on the steps of Centennial Hall to light up.
David Thomas took a walk around the building. He had thrown away his Drum rolling tobacco before he came that night, he said.
"I've heard nothing to make me believe this guy is 100 percent anything," he said, referring to Joe Zawacki, who was putting on the seminar for Gorayeb Seminars Inc. of Rockaway, N.J. "He's offering a system of behavior modification and nutritional supplements.
"Everybody who needs to take on a large task like this needs to ride on some form of positive energy. This is positive energy. He's not offering anything different, he's just selling it differently."
Two days after the seminar, Denise Chambers, who has smoked for eight years and said she usually has cravings for a cigarette "every five minutes," hadn't smoked and said her cravings were reduced.
"I haven't had many urges, but I don't know if I'm just totally susceptible (to suggestion)," she said. "It might just be a catalyst."
Though she liked the hypnosis, she said she wasn't expecting the sales pitch for the vitamins and dietary supplements Zawacki had characterized as the key to quitting smoking.
It made her suspicious, so she didn't buy the pills, she said.
"This guy that went with us, he bought like all these vitamins but he had a cigarette like that night, so I don't think it worked for him," she said.
Zawacki would not talk to an Empire reporter after his seminar, and referred all questions to the Gorayeb corporate office.
Obed Nelson, director of tobacco reduction programs for the American Lung Association in Alaska, said the best way to quit smoking is a combination of counseling and nicotine withdrawal medication. He also recommends exercise and a balanced diet that limits sugar intake. Vitamins, he said, can be used with some caution, but haven't been proven to affect cravings.
"Anecdotally, you'll find people who say, 'hypnosis saved me,' but you can find people who will say that about anything," Nelson said. "This sounds to me like a bait and switch where you come for hypnosis and leave with a cart full of vitamins."