Background Despite the significant decline in smoking rates in the USA over the last 50 years, 42 million Americans continue to smoke. Although the combination of behavioural counselling with FDA-approved medications offers the best evidence-based treatment approach, 12-month relapse rates remain at >60%. Both healthcare providers and patients are searching for alternative treatment options. Most acupuncture trials have yielded poor results for smoking cessation; however, most trials have not used an intense treatment protocol and maintained treatment for at least 12 weeks.
Methods We designed a pilot study to address these methodological problems. Twenty-eight smokers were recruited to attend two 1 h acupuncture sessions weekly for 12 weeks. Primary endpoints included completion rate, acceptability of the protocol and side effects. Secondary endpoints included carbon monoxide (CO)-confirmed, 7-day point prevalence quit rates at 12 weeks and 26 weeks.
Results Sixteen of the 28 patients enrolled (57%) completed 12 weeks of treatment. Of the 17 patients who completed the end-of-study questionnaire, 94% (16/17) rated the programme as helpful, and 82% noted they would recommend it to friends for smoking cessation. Three of the 28 who initially enrolled in the study were confirmed abstinent at 12 weeks (10.7%); one of the 28 (3.6%) was abstinent at 26 weeks.
Conclusions A larger study with a slightly less rigorous and more acceptable treatment protocol is feasible and should be considered.
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