China has the highest number of tobacco smokers among the world’s nations; however, no systematic review has been conducted of clinical trials on the efficacy of smoking cessation interventions in China. This paper summarizes findings of studies in order to compare the effect of pharmacotherapy, counseling, and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) approaches on the abstinence rate.
Clinical trials of smoking cessation interventions published in English or Chinese were extracted from an electronic search of PubMed and WanFang databases. The search yielded 234 studies from the PubMed and 78 studies from the WanFang.
Twenty-nine studies were included in this review. Of these, 11 (37.9%) were randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that assessed the following approaches: counseling (5 studies), TCM (3 studies), pharmacotherapy (1 study), a combination of pharmacotherapy and counseling (1 study), and physician advice (1 study). Pharmacotherapy alone or in combination with counseling generally resulted in a higher abstinence rate than counseling alone. TCM techniques such as acupuncture and ear point seed pressure yielded a much higher abstinence rate than pharmacotherapy and counseling. Findings are inconclusive, however, because most of the TCM studies were noncontrolled trials and did not provide a definition of “abstinence.” Findings on the effectiveness of physician advice to quit smoking were also inconclusive.
A review of smoking cessation studies revealed that pharmacotherapy was effective in China. More RCTs of TCM approaches and physician advice are needed with long-term follow-up assessments and biochemical verification of self-reported abstinence before these approaches are adopted as evidence-based smoking cessation interventions in China.