Quit Smoking With Acupuncture

acupuncture needles on back

We all know that smoking tobacco products is bad for our health. Vaping with e-cigarettes, which is an increasingly popular alternative to smoking, has also been shown to have a number of health risks. No matter how you cut it, using tobacco products in any form is an unhealthy choice.

People who seek out acupuncture for smoking cessation are typically highly motivated to quit smoking. They may have attempted to quit previously without success, but now feel that they are ready. Their reasons for wanting to stop smoking are varied. Some may have developed health problems from smoking, such as shortness of breath, a chronic cough or an increased frequency of colds and flu; others may not be experiencing adverse health consequences, but want to prevent them from developing and improve their health. Some decide to stop smoking when a loved one develops a smoking-related illness such as emphysema or lung cancer.

The diseases associated with smoking are widely known. Many smokers no longer want the expense and dependency of tobacco or they feel a social pressure not to smoke. Ultimately, one has to have the desire to quit smoking for him or herself and not for anyone else. It just won't work without the motivation of the smoker. Every person who chooses acupuncture to quit smoking has a strong desire to quit now, rather than putting it off indefinitely.

What Does the Treatment Involve?

The acupuncture program for smoking cessation at San Francisco Natural Medicine consists of five visits. Before your first appointment, you are sent an extensive questionnaire that gathers information about your smoking history and health background. The questionnaire assists in identifying the behaviors, habits and triggers that lead to smoking.

Some people are social smokers, some smoke for pleasure, some smoke alone or for emotional reasons or when stressed. Nicotine is a powerful addictive and mood-altering chemical that can be sedating or stimulating, depending on the individual.

Image courtesy of dan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net   

Image courtesy of dan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


A few examples of triggers for smoking are:

  • Smoking when on the phone
  • Smoking when angry, upset, sad or lonely
  • Smoking when drinking coffee or alcohol
  • Smoking in the car

At the first appointment, your questionnaire is reviewed and discussed, and a physical exam including blood pressure, lung exam, and methods from traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) such as taking the pulse and observing the tongue are employed. The purpose of this interview is to determine the TCM diagnosis for you and the individualized treatment you will receive.

Taking into account each person's unique smoking habits and physical and emotional makeup, every patient's acupuncture treatment is tailor-made and designed for him or her. No two people are treated exactly the same.

At this session, you learn to identify your particular triggers for smoking and how to avoid them. Acupuncture can reduce the cravings and lessen the withdrawal symptoms associated with your efforts to quit smoking. Since the first month of quitting is often the most difficult, the acupuncture program can ease you through this time.

The first appointment is geared toward preparing you to become a nonsmoker; it does not include an acupuncture treatment. The next four sessions are acupuncture treatments to support your progress to stop smoking.

Up to the night before the first acupuncture treatment, you may smoke your last cigarette ever. From that point on, you will be a nonsmoker.

The four acupuncture treatments for your quit-smoking program are spaced out over three to four weeks, usually two treatments the first week, and then based on your individual needs. The treatments focus on any physical or emotional withdrawal symptoms that may arise, and also aid in relaxation. Of course, if you are having difficulty quitting, the program would be modified to fit your needs.

Does It Just Involve the Ear or Are Other Points Involved?

ear acupuncture

There are no "magic" acupuncture points for smoking cessation. Each patient is custom-treated according to his or her specific and unique diagnosis. Usually a combination of body acupuncture points and points on the ear are used. After the needles are inserted, you will relax for about 30 minutes.

Are Any Other Techniques Used Between Sessions?

We often recommend herbs or other supplements to control cravings or withdrawal symptoms. Exercise is encouraged and dietary recommendations are given (foods to avoid and foods to be included during the withdrawal phase).

How Does It Compare to Other Methods?

Because the acupuncture smoking termination program is individualized, it is often successful for those who have been unable to stop smoking through other methods. Often our patients may have tried Nicorette gum, the nicotine patch or some type of organized program. If the individual sticks with it, the acupuncture quitting program can result in permanent cessation.  

Our acupuncture program to help you quit smoking will only be effective if you meet us halfway. Acupuncture will not do it for you. You need to have a genuine desire to quit smoking. It's very important to enlist the support of friends and family. Everyone will respond to acupuncture and quitting smoking differently. Some sail through the process with little or no problems, while others may have a harder time with withdrawal symptoms. Be assured that acupuncture can reduce the stress and difficulty of quitting smoking, and can support you in your decision to quit smoking.

We believe that smoking cessation is one of the most important steps you can take to improve your health and reduce your risk of chronic disease, and it is our goal to support you in your efforts to begin a healthy and smoke-free life!

If you’d like further information, please contact our clinic at 415-643-6600 and ask for a free 15-minute phone consultation with Dr. Hangee-Bauer, our certified AcuQuit Smoking Cessation™ practitioner, to see if this program fits your needs and goals.