Smokers using laser to kick the habit
BILL RADFORD THE GAZETTE
Some smokers are turning to a high-tech twist on an ancient practice in hopes of kicking the habit.
Laser acupuncture targets “energy” or acupuncture points on the ears, nose, hands and elsewhere, using low-level laser energy instead of needles. The treatment supposedly raises levels of endorphins — the body’s natural pain-killers — and subdues physical cravings for nicotine.
The Food and Drug Administration hasn’t cleared the commercial use of low-level or cold lasers for smoking cessation. But that hasn’t stopped laseracupuncture centers from cropping up in Florida, Las Vegas and elsewhere across the country with claims of success rates as high as 90 percent.
“It’s all the rage,” says Miki Smith, who sells low-level lasers and other medical equipment through his Evergreenbased KMS Marketing.
He’s not aware of any scientific evidence supporting the use of cold lasers for smoking cessation. But, Smith says, “I know practitioners who have done it and they swear by it.”
One way the laser centers get around the lack of FDA approval is by engaging in clinical trials. The Stop Smoking Laser Center, which opened last year in Denver, works with an IRB, or Institutional Review Board, in Massachusetts.
“So as we do the treatments, we maintain records and follow up with the people, and we turn that information over to the IRB,” says Geoff Mann, a founder of the center. “They turn it over to the FDA and, at some point, I’m sure the FDA will approve it.”
Mann, a longtime smoker, was introduced to laser acupuncture a year ago while visiting Florida. At a friend’s recommendation, he went to a laser center there.
He had one 15-minute treatment and hasn’t smoked since, Mann says. He was so impressed that he and friends decided to open a center in Denver.
The laser treatment addresses physical cravings for nicotine, not the mental component, Mann says. “Before the first treatment, we take a little time to talk to the clients about their triggers and their habits.”
The treatment, which includes up to three sessions, normally costs $295; a January special cuts the cost to $206.
Local smoking-cessation experts contacted for this story said they weren’t familiar with the laser treatment.
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