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Quitters, Inc. is a short story by Stephen King, first published in King's 1978 collection Night Shift.

Synopsis

The main character, Richard "Dick" Morrison, is a middle-aged man who smokes. One day he has a chance meeting with his old college roommate James "Jim" McCann who advises him to go to Quitters, Inc., the firm that he says helped him kick the habit. The firm is said to have a 98% success rate with their clients and guarantees that once the person has enrolled for treatment, he will never smoke again. Dick at first forgets about the referral, but after a few months pass and work is going horribly, Dick decides to go to Quitters, Inc. out of curiosity.

There he's introduced to a man named Victor Donatti, who will be his quitting counselor. Donatti begins by telling the history of Quitters, Inc., saying it was founded by a New Jersey mob boss who had been a heavy smoker and realized before his death of lung cancer that he must aid others in quitting. Donatti then says that although the firm has been used as a Mafia front business, they are serious in their desire to help others be cured of tobacco addiction. The following day, Donatti states to Morrison that the mob has found out all the relevant information about his family, which shocks Morrison, in particular the information about his mentally impaired son, Alvin.

Dick is first told of what will happen; that for the first twelve months he will have round-the-clock surveillance on him at all times to ensure he is not smoking, with the watchers immediately reporting back to Donatti if they see Morrison smoking. After a second twelve months, the surveillance would be reduced to 18 hours a day, "but you will never know which eighteen" remarks Donatti. After one year of being in Quitters from then on, Morrison's surveillance would be again reduced to 12 hours a day. Given the long surveillance hours, Morrison feels the odds are against him to smoke on the sly.

Dick then finds out about the brutal enforcement methods used by Quitters, Inc. from Donatti. These include administering non-fatal electric shocks of increasing intensity to his wife if he is caught smoking a cigarette and a second infraction would put Morrison in the shock room. A fourth infraction would involve beatings being administered to his son, and subsequent infractions would result in more trips to the shock room with higher voltage, and more painful beatings of Alvin. Donatti also reveals that after the ninth infraction, Alvin's arms would be broken. Finally, if Dick commits a tenth infraction, Donatti says, placing a gun on his desk, Dick would become part of "the unregenerate two percent." "But even the unregenerate 2% never smoke again. We guarantee it."

With some difficulty, Dick is able to quit, after only one slip, which results in his wife Lucinda "Cindy" Morrison being abducted and shocked. But Cindy understands: she too wants Dick to quit smoking, so she forgives him. Dick, however, now must deal with other aspects of the firm's strict methods. His counselor gives him a prescription for some diet pills, and said that if he does not lose the weight he has gained as consequence of quitting smoking, then his wife's finger will be cut off. Dick loses the weight, but later learns that Jim McCann had not been so lucky, as seen from the fact that his wife is missing a finger.

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