Stop Smoking with Acupuncture

England has been a different place from the 1st July 2007, when the smoking ban came into effect. The new law will help the 72% of current smokers who want to give up, but many may not be aware that acupuncture is a great way to help you quit by reducing the problematic withdrawal symptoms of the addiction, making it easier to kick the habit for good.

With the obvious health risks of smoking, passive smoking and the financial strain of a 20-a-day habit costing at least £1,500 per year, it's easy to see why giving up is so important. Acupuncture offers an effective, natural way to curb the cravings and stop smoking.

Rachel Peckham, British Acupuncture Council member and NADA (National Acupuncture Detoxification Association) trainer explains how auricular (ear) acupuncture is used to help people stop smoking: "A combination of five auricular points can aid smoking cessation by helping to reduce cravings, and promoting an increased sense of calm and relaxation. Press studs, gold plated beads or magnets can be placed on two of the points following the acupuncture, and left in between treatments to further enhance the effects."

By alleviating energy blockages in the body acupuncture works to relieve stress, reduce cravings and strengthen energy and vitality, allowing the body to become more balanced and giving your will power a chance to succeed.

Acupuncture can be effective for:

    • managing stress which often causes people to reach for the cigarettes
    • reduction and relief from cravings (including cigarette addiction)
    • treating acute withdrawal symptoms
    • promoting an increased sense of calm and relaxation
    • enhancing the immune system
    • overcoming troubled sleep and insomnia
    • boosting general well being
    • increased energy levels

How can acupuncture help me give up smoking?

When people decide to give up smoking, some are able to do it without too much difficulty, while others find it extremely difficult, and sometimes almost impossible. In general, the people who find it most difficult are those who began smoking in their teens and have smoked continuously since.
Through extensive clinical use, acupuncture has proved to be an effective treatment that has helped many people to overcome their tobacco addiction, and indeed has helped many people in their withdrawal from other addictive substances. Because of its proven effectiveness, acupuncture is widely used in drug detox clinics around the world.

Nicotine is one of the most addictive drugs known. When you combine this chemical with the flavour of tobacco smoke and the oral satisfaction of a cigarette, you get an addiction that is very difficult to break. However, acupuncture treatment tends to change your experience of smoking into a bad experience which makes smoking cessation less difficult. Some people find that the taste of the smoke becomes unpleasant; others find that the smell of the smoke makes them feel nauseous; and others find that smoking makes them become unpleasantly warm. This change also helps you to stop smoking, by putting you off the experience of smoking. Also, acupuncture treatment alleviates nervousness, agitation, and other signs of mental distress. This calming effect may also make the smoking cessation experience less stressful.

Cessation strategies to help you stop smoking

When using acupuncture treatment to help you give up smoking, you could either choose to stop smoking suddenly, at the start of treatment, or to gradually withdraw from smoking.
Stop suddenly: With this approach, the critical time is in the first week or two. You should not regard it as a failure if you take one cigarette. This is still a great reduction compared to before the start of your cessation campaign. Rather regard yourself as withdrawing gradually.
Gradual withdrawal: This approach is easier on the body. Acupuncture treatment changes the taste of cigarettes, which would usually help you to give up. You should:

    • gradually increase the time between cigarettes
    • reduce the amount of each one smoked.
    • use a card to log cigarettes, and the amount of each cigarette smoked

The disadvantage of this approach is that the usual triggers to smoke are still present.

What form does the acupuncture take?

There are various methods that we can use to treat your addiction. We tend to use a combination of body acupuncture points, and certain acupuncture points on your ears. During the treatment, we would needle certain acupuncture points on your body. These would usually be selected to ease your withdrawal symptoms, to calm your mind, and to treat the effects that smoking would have had on your body over the years. Of course, if there are any other underlying problems, we would also treat those as well. We would then usually place special seeds on certain acupuncture points on your ears. These are held in place by small plasters and they would remain in place for a few days. They would continue the effects of the treatment over the following few days, and would help to ease any tobacco cravings that you might have. Each time you experience a craving, you would be able to press the seeds, which would usually help to ease the craving.

How many acupuncture treatments will I need?

This will vary from person to person. Generally though, if you are going to instantly withdraw from smoking at the start of the treatments, we would recommend three treatments per week for the first week, and then two treatments in the second week to help you get through the most difficult patch. You might then change to weekly treatments, and gradually increase the interval between treatments as you find the cravings subsiding and your health improving.

If you are going to gradually withdraw from smoking, we would suggest starting with weekly treatments, and then gradually increasing the interval between treatments when you feel comfortable doing this.

As to the overall number of treatments that it might take, this really will vary from person to person. Some people respond to the treatments much better than others. The only way to discover this in your own case is for you to receive a few treatments. It should then be possible for me to gauge how many you might need in total.

What are the benefits of acupuncture treatment?

The treatments would not only treat your withdrawal symptoms, making it easier for you to stop smoking, but would also improve your general health. Of course, once you have stopped smoking, your health would tend to improve as a result, but if you are undergoing acupuncture treatment while you are stopping, the improvement in your health would normally be more pronounced.
Also, an added bonus is the tremendous financial benefits that you will have once you have finally managed to stop smoking.


Research by HD Medbo et al (2001) was conducted on 45 healthy men and women who smoked 20 cigarettes per day. The group was randomly split into a test group in which acupuncture was applied to anti-smoking acupoints. A control group received acupuncture on points considered to have no effect on smoking cessation. Before each treatment, after the last treatment, 8 months and 5 years after this study, each subject was questioned about his/her smoking habits. Blood samples were also taken to measure substances related to smoking.

During treatment cigarette consumption fell from twenty to six cigarettes a day for the test group. During the following eight months their consumption rose to a total of eleven cigarettes a day with no increase after that period, showing a maintained reduction in smoking. This group also reported that cigarettes tasted worse after treatment and their desire to smoke fell. No effect was seen in the control group.

The test confirms that acupuncture treatment can help motivated smokers to reduce smoking or quit completely.

Statistics supplied by DOH 2006.