Acupuncture helps smokers quit.




Preventive Medicine

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Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese practice that involves piercing strategic points on the body with needles. This is a relatively painless procedure and is performed by a licensed acupuncturist. While this practice has been used in China for over 2,000 years, its use in the United States is relatively new. Acupuncture is one element of Traditional Chinese Medicine, which includes other modalities such as herbal therapies and massage. It is difficult for people born and raised in a culture like the United States to understand how Traditional Chinese Medicine works because it is a complex and complicated medical system that uses theories and practices that Westerners are not used to. For this reason, acceptance by the medical profession has been slow. However, consistent reports of success using acupuncture for specific purposes have gained attention.

In 1999, there were 46.5 million smokers in the United States.1 Although the number of smokers has decreased 25% since 1993, many smokers still have trouble quitting. A recent study looked at the effects of acupuncture on helping smokers quit or reducing the amount smoked. The researchers wanted to know the long-term effects of acupuncture on smokers. A group of 46 men and women who smoked an average of 20 cigarettes a day were chosen for this study. These participants were assigned to either a test group who received acupuncture on anti-smoking acupoints, or to a control group where acupuncture was performed on unlike points. The individuals involved in this study answered questionnaires regarding their smoking habits before each treatment, after the final treatment, 8 months and finally 5 years after the last treatment. During treatment, the number of cigarettes smoked daily dropped by 14 for the test group and 7 for the control group. The test group reported that cigarettes now tasted worse than before and their craving for cigarettes diminished. At the 5-year follow up, the test group maintained the reduction while the control group did not illustrate any long-term effects. The authors concluded that, "… adequate acupuncture treatment may help motivated smokers to reduce their smoking, or even quit smoking completely, and the effect may last for at least 5 years. Acupuncture may affect the subjects' smoking by reducing their taste of tobacco and their desire to smoke. Different acupoints have different effects on smoking cessation."2


1. Cigarette Smoking Among Adults — United States, 1999. United States Department of Health and Human Services.
2. Dong HE. Effect of Acupuncture on Smoking Cessation or Reduction: An 8-Month and 5-Year Follow-up Study. Preventive Medicine. Dec 2001;33:364-372.