Information Systems
College of Business Administration
University of Missouri - St. Louis
The Old Man Who Wanted to Quit Smoking

After nearly 50 years of smoking, an old man decided he was going to quit. He had heard about a magic patch that stuck to your skin just like a band-aid and would help you quit smoking by taking away the cravings. The next day, he went to the local drugstore and asked the pharmacist if he had any magic patches that helps folks quit smoking. The pharmacist told him yes, and that he could buy a whole box of them. The old man, whose vision had deteriorated over the years so that he couldn’t read the small print on the box, asked the pharmacist how to use them. The pharmacist told him, “It’s easy, just put one of these on your skin every day when you wake up. By the time the box is empty, you should have quit smoking altogether.” The old man, eager to kick the habit, enthusiastically paid for the box of patches and took them home. He could hardly wait until the next morning to start to quit smoking after all those years. When he woke up the next morning, he opened the box, took out one of the patches, and put it on his arm. “Wow, that’s easy!” he said. Sure enough, he didn’t have the same urges to smoke that he usually did, and he was very pleased. However, at the end of the first week, he was starting to feel really sick…light headed, irritable, and just plain bad. He thought it might have something to do with the patches and decided he should go talk to the pharmacist about it. He went to the drugstore, found the pharmacist and explained how the patches were indeed helping him to stop smoking, but now he was starting to feel really sick and wondered if the patches might be to blame. When the pharmacist asked him to describe how he was using them, the old man said, “Every morning when I get up, I put one of those patches on my skin just like you said,” and for emphasis, he pulled up one shirt sleeve, and then the other. To his surprise, the pharmacist saw several patches on each of the man’s arms. “Why do you have so many patches on your arms?” he asked the old man. “Well,” the old man said, “you told me to put one on every morning, but you never told me to take any of them off.”

Moral: : Sometimes the right technology, applied improperly, can create new problems.

These stories are adapted examples written in my class, IS 6840 (formerly MSIS 488).
© Vicki L. Sauter. All rights Reserved.

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