Florida Company That Markets Hypnosis Seminars for
Smoking Cessation and Weight Loss Agrees to Settle FTC Charges

FTC News Release
February 16, 1994

The American Institute of Habit Control (AIHC) and its president, Steven Present, marketers of "The Present Seminar" and other stop-smoking and weight-loss seminars, have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they made unsubstantiated claims in their advertisements about the rate at which participants of their seminars will permanently stop smoking and lose weight. The proposed settlement would, among other things, prohibit the respondents from making any representation about the relative or absolute performance or efficacy of any smoking cessation or weight loss program, unless they possess and rely upon competent and reliable scientific evidence to substantiate the representation.

AIHC is based in Miami, FL. The Present Seminar is a 2-1/2 hour, group hypnosis session provided to consumers by Steven Present at hotels located in various cities nationwide. The seminar is claimed to help the participants stop smoking and lose weight.

According to the FTC complaint detailing the charges, the respondents falsely advertised that 97 percent of their seminar participants permanently abstain from smoking after attending the seminar, and that the US Surgeon General, in the 1989 Report on Smoking, states that the group hypnosis method used by AIHC and Present is one of the most effective ways to stop smoking. In addition, the complaint alleges that AIHC and Present represented that seminar participants are cured of smoking addiction and permanently abstain from smoking cigarettes; that the respondents' single session group hypnosis seminar is more effective for smoking cessation than other smoking-cessation methods; that participants at these seminars are cured of smoking addiction without experiencing withdrawal, stress or weight gain; and that seminar participants achieve and maintain weight loss. The FTC alleged that these representations are deceptive because the respondents did not possess adequate substantiation for these claims.

The proposed consent agreement to settle these charges, announced today for public comment, would prohibit AIHC and Present from misrepresenting the performance or efficacy of any smoking cessation or weight loss program in the future and from misrepresenting the contents or results of any study or test. The settlement would also prohibit these respondents from making representations about the relative or absolute performance or efficacy of any smoking cessation or weight loss program unless they possess a reasonable basis, consisting of competent and reliable scientific evidence, to substantiate the claim. In addition, the order would prohibit these respondents from falsely representing that 97 percent of their seminar attendees permanently abstain from smoking after those seminars and from representing that the Surgeon General's 1989 report states that the hypnosis method used by AIHC and Present is one of the most effective ways to stop smoking.

The settlement also contains various provisions that would assist the FTC in monitoring AIHC's compliance with the order.

The Commission vote to announce the proposed consent agreement for public comment was 5-0.

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