Alternative Quit Smoking Methods - Do They Work?
Last updated: February 2021
There are no two ways about it - quitting smoking is hard. Tobacco is one of the most powerful addictions, with both physical dependence and a psychological component as well.1
Harms of smoking
Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death.2 It's clear that smoking often leads to disease and disability. More than 16 million people are living with illnesses directly related to smoking. For every person who dies from smoking, experts estimate that at least 30 others are living with a smoking-related disability.2
Plus, the risk doesn't lie solely with the smoker. The people around them are also at risk. Exposure to secondhand smoke is a factor in as many as 41,000 deaths in non-smokers and 400 deaths in infants each year.2
So, you can see there are many reasons to want to quit smoking. But the fact is, as I stated at the start, it's hard to quit. The good news is there are a number of medications that can help. Some are nicotine-replacements, while others have a different mode of action. Unfortunately, many of these meds may have unpleasant side effects, at least initially.
This is one of the reasons why there is often interest in alternative methods for quitting smoking; methods that don't involve putting a foreign substance into your body and/or living with the after-effects.
But do these alternative methods work? Let's take a look.
Alternatives to using medication
According to the National Health Interview Survey reported in 2002, 36% of adults used some form of alternative health therapy methods during the previous 12 months.3 Since that was nearly 20 years ago now, it only stands to reason that even more people these days are using alternative health.
People who want to quit smoking in a "more natural" way are no exception. Some of the alternative methods purported to be helpful in quit smoking methods include:4
- Cold laser therapy
- Magnet therapy
- Herbs and nutritional supplements
- Mind-body practices
Hypnosis is a method of relaxing the mind enough to identify and ignore subconscious triggers. Once the triggers are identified, it can lead to changing behaviors. Although this is a popular quit smoking method, there is a lack of conclusive evidence that it actually works.4 Still, many people swear by it, so if you want to try it, be sure to find a licensed hypnotherapist to help you.
Acupuncture is a Chinese medicine technique that uses tiny needles to stimulate certain points on the body thought to control cravings and behaviors. For smoking, acupuncture is usually used on the ears. Again, valid research studies do not prove that acupuncture is any more effective than a placebo when it comes to quitting smoking.4
Cold laser therapy
This technique is sometimes referred to as low-level laser therapy. It is similar to acupuncture, but lasers are substituted for needles. Currently, there is no scientific evidence that it works.4
With this method, two small magnets are placed opposite each other on specific pressure points on either side of your upper ear. You are supposed to wear them for a few hours a day, and the idea is they work like acupressure. Supposedly, they help release endorphins.5 Unfortunately, endorphins have nothing to do with controlling nicotine addiction. That's related to a different brain chemical called dopamine.
Also, despite the claims from magnet vendors, there is no clinical trial data to support those claims.4
Herbs and nutritional supplements
Supplements are very popular these days, with people taking them for all sorts of health reasons. Sadly, they are not regulated or studied by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so there's no real proof that they work or are even safe to take. Again, there is no scientific evidence that any herb or supplement can help you quit smoking.4
Consult your healthcare team
None of the alternative methods described above are approved by the FDA as quit-smoking tools.4 There is a lack of credible research supporting their effectiveness. However, none of them have been deemed to be harmful. So, if used in conjunction with other more proven methods to quit smoking, one or more of them might be worth trying. But be sure to consult with your healthcare team before going forward, so that you can make the best decision for yourself.
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