Various methods to stop smoking have been developed and their effectiveness studied, but none of them has been verified to be highly successful. Nicotine patch, as a nicotine alternative treatment, and bupropion, as an antidepressant, have been considered to be the most effective methods for smoking cessation. Recently, acupuncture, herbs, and aroma have been used as alternative medicines to stop smoking, but such methods have been used without definite research supporting their effects.
Several researchers have studied smoking cessation acupuncture since the early 1970s but the results are controversial. According to Ballal et al.,14
performing smoking cessation acupuncture for six weeks produced a smoking cessation rate of 50.1%, 45.5% of the subjects reduced their consumption to 5 cigarettes and 4.3% failed to reduce smoking. Meanwhile, Fuller et al.15
used 3 electric ear acupuncture procedure on 194 smokers, and reported a 95% success rate; among them 41% stopped smoking after 6 months and 30% stopped smoking after 2 years. In addition, Hackett et al.16
reported a success rate of 50% 12 months after electric ear acupuncture. After using acupuncture treatment on 514 persons, Choy et al.17
reported a success rate of 88%, and a recurrence rate of 31% in the second year of treatment. As for acupuncture method using laser, Zalesskiy et al.18
reported a smoking cessation rate of 71% in 85 persons.
Several researchers have conducted case control studies on smoking cessation acupuncture. He et al.19
reported that acupuncture treatment showed significant effectiveness in a case-control study, but most other researchers, including Parker et al.20
and Steiner et al.,21
reported that there was no apparent difference between the control and acupuncture treatment groups. Gillams et al.22
also reported no significant difference between the control and acupuncture treatment groups when the acupuncture was applied on remote areas from the lung site of the ear in the control group, that was known as one of the smoking cessation acupuncture points. Results of a meta-analysis of controlled trials were also negative.23
In this study, the smoking cessation success was only 1 case (0.6%) in the case group and none in the control group after 4 weeks. One of the main reasons for this low success rate was the low motivation of the subjects, who participated not by their own decision but by their teachers. This was the major limitation of this study. The results of this study revealed that there was no difference in smoking cessation, similar to those of the above studies. Nevertheless, as time passed, the changes in the taste and desires of tobacco in the case group were decreased. That suggests acupuncture treatments have some effects on taste and desire of smoking, but are not good enough to quit the smoking.
Generally 6-month follow-up is needed in order to correctly judge the success rate of smoking cessation, but this study failed to determine whether each subject successfully stopped smoking because many of the students had a winter vacation or graduated from school and could not be followed. Due to such limitation, it was not certain that there was a difference between the case and control group in smoking cessation rate.
While the samples in this study could not be generalized because the subjects were limited in a certain area, this study suggests that smoking cessation acupuncture has no effect on the smoking cessation rate. However, this study verified the changes in tastes and desires that had been reported in previous case-control studies.9
Moreover, we could not randomize the subjects into the case and control groups because the subjects went to the same school. Therefore, we had to classify the subjects into the two groups by schools. However, we identified that there was no significant difference between the two groups in subject characteristics.
Considering that there was no significant difference in the results of this study, other factors except the acupuncture or only acupuncture regardless of effective sites may induce the increases in smoking cessation rate and smoking decrease rate. Further studies will be necessary to identify the uncertainty.