Background: Acupuncture and related techniques are promoted as a treatment for smoking cessation in the belief that they may reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms.
Objectives: The objectives of this review are to determine the effectiveness of acupuncture and the related interventions of acupressure, laser therapy and electrostimulation, in smoking cessation in comparison with no intervention, sham treatment, or other interventions.
Search strategy: We searched the Cochrane Tobacco Addiction Group specialized register, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), MEDLINE, EMBASE, BIOSIS Previews, PsycINFO, Science and Social Sciences Citation Index, AMED and CISCOM. Date of last search January 2005.
Selection criteria: Randomized trials comparing a form of acupuncture, acupressure, laser therapy or electrostimulation with either no intervention, sham treatment or another intervention for smoking cessation.
Data collection and analysis: We extracted data in duplicate on the type of smokers recruited, the nature of the acupuncture and control procedures, the outcome measures, method of randomization, and completeness of follow up. We assessed abstinence from smoking at the earliest time-point (before six weeks), and at the last measurement point between six months and one year. We used the most rigorous definition of abstinence for each trial, and biochemically validated rates if available. Those lost to follow up were counted as continuing smokers. Where appropriate, we performed meta-analysis using a fixed-effect model.
Main results: We identified 24 reports of studies. The only comparison for which there were sufficient studies to combine meaningfully was acupuncture compared with sham acupuncture. The fixed-effect odds ratio (OR) for the short-term effect was 1.36 (95% confidence interval 1.07 to 1.72), but the studies are heterogeneous and the result is strongly influenced by one individual positive study. The significant short-term effect was lost with the random-effects model for pooling, or by removing the outlying study that led to heterogeneity. The long-term result shows no effect of acupuncture compared with sham acupuncture. There was no consistent evidence that acupuncture is superior to no treatment, and no evidence that the effect of acupuncture was different from that of other anti-smoking interventions, or that any particular acupuncture technique is superior to other techniques.
Authors' conclusions: There is no consistent evidence that acupuncture, acupressure, laser therapy or electrostimulation are effective for smoking cessation, but methodological problems mean that no firm conclusions can be drawn. Further research using frequent or continuous stimulation is justified.