Background: This study was undertaken to examine whether acupuncture treatment may have a long-term effect on smoking cessation or reduction.
Methods: Altogether 46 healthy men and women who reported smoking 20 +/- 6 cigarettes per day (mean +/- SD) volunteered in the study. They were randomly assigned to a test group (TG) or to a control group (CG) in which presumed anti-smoking acupoints were stimulated (TG) or acupuncture was applied to acupoints considered to have no effect on smoking cessation (CG). Before each treatment, after the last one, and 8 months and 5 years after the last one, each subject answered questionnaires about his or her smoking habits and attitudes. Blood samples for measuring variables related to smoking, i.e., serum cotinine and serum thiocyanate, were taken.
Results: During the treatment period the reported cigarette consumption fell on average by 14 (TG) and 7 (CG) cigarettes per day (P < 0.001). For both groups the reported cigarette consumption rose on average by 5-7 cigarettes during the following 8 months, and there was no systematic change thereafter. Consequently, TG showed a maintained reduction in smoking; no lasting effect was seen for CG. The TG reported that cigarettes tasted worse than before the treatments, and also the desire to smoke fell. For TG the serum concentration of cotinine fell, and the values correlated with the reported smoking.
Conclusions: This study confirms 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.
Copyright 2001 American Health Foundation and Academic Press.