Medicine: the laser to quit smoking? Beware of smoking!

PostedMay 29, 2022, 11:51

French doctors and authorities warn against a new supposedly miracle method to quit smoking, which is not scientifically validated. And that is expensive.

Reduce or even stop smoking: to achieve this goal, many smokers are ready for anything.

Photo d’illustration/Pixabay

With the laser, “stop smoking in one session”, “success rate of 85%”: these enticing promises – even if it means paying between 150 and 250 euros on average per session – are swarming on the internet in France. Promises all the more enticing as they skilfully handle a lexicon evocative of medicine: “offices”, “therapists”, “treatment”… But beware, this technique is not scientifically validated, warn doctors and authorities.

“1 year warranty & no weight gain”, promises the site of a large network of “anti-tobacco laser centers”. According to its promoters, the “soft laser” stimulates points on the pinna of the ear, an action supposed to cut the craving for nicotine. A technique derived from acupuncture. “I suppress the physical need to smoke,” assures Hakima Koné, manager of a Parisian laser center. You have to be very motivated and she “is not a magician”, but she assures that there is no method “that works as well”. A “clearly” scientifically proven method, according to her.

Method criticized since 2007

“Smokers can be in great difficulty when they have already tried to quit several times and fall into the trap very easily”, explains Daniel Thomas, former head of the cardiology department at the Parisian Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital, door -speaker of the French-speaking tobacco company. The “laser is not one of the validated methods that have proven their effectiveness for tobacco weaning”, we confirm on the official site “Tobacco-Info-Service”.

As early as 2007, the Canadian Cancer Society warned about this method which benefited from very affirmative advertising campaigns, promising to stop smoking, alcohol and drugs. Fifteen years later, science is still skeptical but the laser is in vogue in France thanks to “numerous advertising screens in newspapers and magazines, (the) television or on the internet”, note three pulmonologists and tobacco specialists in an article by the French medical journal “Le Courrier des Addictions”, which underline the absence of serious conclusive studies.

The impact of the placebo effect

However, a smoker can perfectly come out of a session of this kind of technique rid of his desire to smoke, notes the specialist, in particular because the placebo effect can have a significant impact. To the point that the French High Authority for Health confirms that if the benefit of non-validated methods has not been established, their use cannot be excluded because of a “possible placebo effect”. Provided that they are “proven to be harmless”.

As all the specialists underline it, it is the will which remains the key in any case. Not to mention all the other variables: a smoker who wants to quit is likely to engage in better lifestyle habits that will aid in success. It is therefore difficult to determine which factor(s) enabled him to stop. If these methods “cannot a priori do any harm and are sometimes likely to support highly motivated smokers, the main criticism that can be leveled at these centers is to make them a panacea with high rates of success of 85% not credible”, summarizes Daniel Thomas.


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