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Will acupuncture help you quit smoking?

If you have decided to quit smoking and are searching for the best way to reach your goal, you might want to add acupuncture to your list.

From electronic cigarettes and patches providing an extremely small amount of nicotine to the body to varenicline-based nicotine addiction buster Champix, many smokers must have tried several things to quit the habit. Acupuncture is arguably the latest and allegedly one of the most effective ways to achieving their resolutions, according to the Association of Korean Oriental Medicine.

The organization of Oriental doctors claimed that its “guemyeonchim,” acupuncture to quit smoking, has been proven effective on more than 40 percent of those wanting to quit. The acupuncture was practiced on 400 teenagers nationwide for a year in 2010 and found out that 40 percent had succeeded in quitting and another 32.5 percent had experienced reduced urge to smoke again.

The association said that the younger the smoker, the more effect the treatment. The practice was also more thaneffective for those who smoked less than 10 cigarettes a day than those who smoked more than a packet, typically consisting of 20 cigarettes, a day. 
Students receive “geumyeonchim,” acupuncture to quit smoking. (Association of Korean Oriental Medicine)
Students receive “geumyeonchim,” acupuncture to quit smoking. (Association of Korean Oriental Medicine)

“We apply small acupuncture needles on six points on the ear that we believe are linked to six different organs in the body. The recipients stay for two or three days with the needles on, which constantly stimulate and suppress the urge,” Ryu Eun-kyung, chief of Jain Medi-Hospital in Ilsan, Gyeonggi Province, said.

“Some sensitive ones, like the young ones, told me that they felt an instant urge to quit smoking: cigarettes do not taste good anymore but like burning paper or a disgusting object,” she said.

The AKEM, which provides the service with its 1,606 clinic members nationwide, said it is time for the government to support acupuncture. It claimed that the practice is less damaging to the body since it provides no nicotine to the body.

The group has teamed up with local middle and high schools, and dispatches Oriental doctors to consult with students. “A total of 12,282 teens received the treatment last year,” the association spokesman said.

However, skepticism exists. “Who would dare to say they are smoking again after receiving all that treatments for free? With their teachers’ possibly monitoring the respondents?” said one doctor of Western medicine, who claims that self-control and some help from drugs are the only means of quitting.

The majority of those who found the practice ineffective said they could not suppress their urge to start puffing again within a week, showing that the effect might be merely temporary.

Bae Ji-sook (baejisook@heraldcorp.com)
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