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TCM practitioners back ancient remedy to cure a deadly addiction

A hospital is using acupuncture and counseling to help people quit smoking. Li Bingcun reports from Hong Kong.
After several attempts to quit smoking by sheer willpower, many addicts have turned to ancient remedies in a last-ditch effort to kick the weed.
It's almost a year since Lo Chikeung threw away his last cigarette butt. He discovered a new world, fresh and clean, after decades under the persuasive lure of nicotine. There was another plus - people stopped telling him he reeked of tobacco.
"I never realized that the odor was so unpleasant until I smelled smoke on other people after I quit," he said.
Last year, he visited Pok Oi Hospital, where he got the monkey off his back with the help of traditional Chinese medicine. In doing so, he became one of more than 10,000 smokers in Hong Kong that have used a smoking cessation program the hospital has offered since 2010.
Their reasons for quitting were varied: some people with life-threatening illnesses hoped they would survive if they quit smoking and their health improved; some were expectant parents who wanted to clean up their act to ensure their child would not have to endure passive smoking and an unhealthy atmosphere; and others believed quitting would give them a new lease on life.
The patients shared a common experience: it's hard to quit smoking. Tobacco is considered by some experts to be among the most addictive substances on the planet.
Lo tried to quit by using willpower seven years ago. His daughter and son-in-law were expecting a baby, and he was sure he'd be called on to look after the child. He was also sure the smoke from his cigarettes would be harmful to the little girl who finally came along.
"She would be living with me in my tiny house, breathing the same air. I might feed her, wash her and put her to sleep in my arms. Even if I smoked outdoors, the smell would stay on my clothes and affect her," he said.
Despite his good intentions, his reasoned approach, his feelings of guilt and his willpower, he continued to smoke. "I couldn't curb the desire. It felt so strange and uncomfortable to sit at home without a cigarette in my hand," he said. He cut the number of cigarettes he smoked by half, but he was still hooked.
He heard about the treatment being offered at the hospital - the city's first smoking-cessation program based on TCM - and decided to investigate. Over the following two months, he attended eight sessions. He quit, and hasn't smoked since.
The basic course consists of six acupuncture treatments and four face-to-face counseling sessions during the first month. If the patient quits smoking during those first four weeks, a practitioner monitors his or her progress at 26 weeks and 52 weeks.
If the first month's treatment doesn't work, patients are encouraged to continue visiting over the following year via a follow-up service, which places no limit on the number of visits.
From China Daily

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