BACKGROUND: Tobacco smoking is a major cause of preventable disease and premature death. Physicians should play an active role in the control of smoking by encouraging cessation and helping the smoker to choose the most suitable aid to cessation. AIM: To evaluate a simple, ear acupuncture treatment for the cessation of smoking. METHOD: Randomized, single-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 78 currently smoking volunteers from the general public. Volunteers attended an acupuncture clinic in a general practice setting and were given a single treatment of electroacupuncture using two needles at either an active or a placebo site plus self-retained ear seeds for two weeks. The major outcome measure was biochemically validated total cessation of smoking at six months. RESULTS: A total of 12.5% of the active treatment group compared with 0% of the placebo group ceased smoking at six months (P = 0.055, 95% confidence interval -0.033 to 0.323). CONCLUSION: This simple ear electroacupuncture treatment was significantly more effective in helping volunteers to quit smoking than placebo treatment.