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Friday December 14 1:34 PM ET

Acupuncture Does Help Some Smokers to Quit

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Smokers who want to kick the habit can indeed find success with the help of acupuncture, according to researchers in Norway.

In their study, a group of pack-a-day smokers were given acupuncture at specific points on the body associated with quitting smoking, while others--the ``control'' group--had acupuncture in points not associated with quitting smoking.

During the study period, cigarette consumption fell on average by 14 cigarettes per day for the acupuncture treatment group and 7 cigarettes per day in the control group. After the treatment ended, the smokers in both groups increased their cigarette consumption an average of 5 to 7 cigarettes per day.

Just after the last treatment, 32% of the smokers in the acupuncture group had quit smoking. At the 8-month and 5-year follow-ups, 23% and 18% of smokers, respectively, were still not smoking, the authors report. None of the smokers in the control group quit smoking at either of those follow-up periods.

``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,'' lead author Dr. Dong He of the University of Oslo, Norway, and colleagues report in a recent issue of the journal Preventive Medicine.

All the smokers received two treatments per week for 3 weeks and were instructed to give themselves ear acupressure, using their fingers, four times per day during the same time period. More than one million Americans are estimated to use acupuncture. In 1993, the Food and Drug Administration reported that Americans spent $500 million annually and made about 9 to 12 million patient visits for acupuncture treatment.

Acupuncture can be traced back at least 2,500 years. The general theory of acupuncture is based on the premise that there are patterns of energy flow (qi) through the body that are essential for health. Disruptions of this flow are believed to be responsible for disease. The belief underlying the technique is that the acupuncturist can correct imbalances of flow by inserting needles at specific points in the skin.

SOURCE: Preventive Medicine 2001;33:364-372.

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