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Original Article
A Survey of the Clinical Practice of Korean Medicine for Smoking Cessation in Public Health Centers: A Web-Based Survey of Public Health Doctors of Korean Medicine
Gyoungeun Park1orcid, Jeong-Hyun Moon1orcid, Eun-Jung Kim2orcid, Byung-Kwan Seo3orcid, Yong-Hyeon Baek3orcid, Won-Suk Sung2,*orcid
Perspectives on Integrative Medicine 2024;3(1):45-50.
Published online: February 22, 2024

1College of Korean Medicine, Dongguk University Graduate School, Seoul, Republic of Korea

2Department of Acupuncture and Moxibustion, Dongguk University Bundang Oriental Hospital, Bundang, Republic of Korea

3Department of Acupuncture and Moxibustion Medicine, Kyung Hee University College of Korean Medicine, Kyung Hee University Hospital at Gangdong, Seoul, Republic of Korea

*Corresponding author: Won-Suk Sung, Department of Acupuncture and Moxibustion, Dongguk University Bundang Oriental Hospital, 268, Buljeong-ro, Bundang-gu, Seongnam-si, Gyeonggi-do, Republic of Korea Bundang 13601, Republic of Korea, Email:
• Received: December 19, 2023   • Revised: January 30, 2024   • Accepted: January 31, 2024

©2024 Jaseng Medical Foundation

This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC license (

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  • Background
    In South Korea, public health centers provide smoking cessation (SC) treatments including behavioral therapy and nicotine replacement treatment. Also, public health doctors of Korean medicine (PHDKMs) are providing Korean Medicine (KM) treatments. Several studies have reported the clinical usefulness of KM treatment, but in this study, the opinion of PHDKMs was explored to examine the current KM treatments for SC.
  • Methods
    A web-based survey (Moaform) of the treatment for SC by PHDKMs consisted of 5 main sections including clinical practice status, SC participants, KM treatments for SC, progress and prognosis, and perception of KM. The survey was emailed twice to 621 PHDKMs on April 6 to 20, 2022. The frequencies and percentages of each question were calculated.
  • Results
    There were 28 PHDKMs who participated in the survey. Among them, over 90% of PHDKMs had treated ≤ 10 SC participants, and about 10% of PHDKMs had treated 11–20 participants. The abstinence rate was 56.8% with an average 63.2% level of satisfaction in the treatment. Typically used, and recognized as important KM treatments, were auricular acupuncture, acupuncture, education, and herbal medicine. While auricular acupuncture and education were perceived as convenient KM treatment, PHDKMs thought that SC could not be achieved with KM treatment alone and needed be combined with other treatments.
  • Conclusion
    This survey showed the effectiveness of KM treatments with withdrawal symptoms, and treatment satisfaction of SC participants. Respondents also thought that KM treatment combined with other treatments is more effective than KM monotherapy. Based on this small study, further research would be needed.
The World Health Organization defined smoking tobacco as one of the biggest public health threats, killing more than 8 million people in the world [1]. There are estimated globally to be 1 billion current smokers in 2020 [2]. In a community health survey in 2022 in South Korea, 19.3% of respondents were current smokers [3]. When compared with nonsmokers, smoking is reported to cause 2–3 times higher mortality in association with 5 major conditions/diseases: lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, ischemic heart disease, and stroke (including ischemic and hemorrhagic) [4].
Since the first smoking cessation (SC) clinical practice guideline (CPG) in the US in 1996 [5], the initial SC CPGs mainly recommended behavioral therapy and nicotine replacement treatment (NRT) [6]. However, national health insurance services recently recommend medication rather than NRT [7]. Since 2004, in South Korea, SC has been managed mainly by public health centers (PHCs) [8], and several articles have reported the effectiveness of PHCs and have investigated the factors associated with the success of SC [911].
Regarding Korean Medicine (KM) treatments, acupuncture and herbal medicine have been used [12,13]. Korean medicine doctors (KMDs), who work in PHC due to mandatory military service, have helped smokers successfully stop smoking by using various interventions. However, there are few articles on KMDs in public health sector reporting their treatment of SC. Therefore, this study aimed to investigate the current KM treatment for SC clinic through feedback from PHDKMs.
Before conducting the survey, the following items were prepared; (1) development of questions; (2) ethical approval; and (3) modification of a web-survey platform. Regarding the development of questions, GEP and JHM retrieved previous surveys on SC and other diseases [1417], and literature on KM treatment for SC from several databases [MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane library, China National Knowledge Infrastructure (Chinese database), CiNii, KoreaMed, Korean Medical Database, Korean Studies Information Service System, ScienceOn, Korea Institute of Science and Technology Information, and Oriental Medicine Advanced Searching Integrated System].
After drafting the survey and following 2 conferences, other KMDs (EJK and WSS), who are specialized in SC, participated in revision of the survey. After this process, 39 questions were proposed with the main 5 sections: (1) clinical practice status; (2) SC participants; (3) KM treatments for SC; (4) progress and prognosis; and (5) perception of KM on SC. Questions were modified online on the web-survey platform (Moaform). There were no conflicts of interest in collecting responses. Regarding ethics, this survey was approved by the institutional review board of Dongguk University Bundang Oriental Hospital in South Korea (no.: DUBOH IRB 2022-0006).
The survey was emailed to 621 KMDs in public health sector on April 6 to 20, 2022 and contained the survey link. The survey was emailed twice through the association of KMDs in public health sector. In the email, the information in the survey was explained (including the objectives, estimated time to complete, and an email address was given for inquiries and for returning the respondent data), it was mentioned that we would use the survey data for academic research, and participants were reminded that they could stop the survey any time.
Regarding statistics, the raw data was obtained using Microsoft Excel. The number of responses in each question was checked and percentages were calculated (except for questions which were ranked). When necessary, frequencies and percentages were calculated and ranked. For the objectivity, 1 independent researcher, who did not participate in the survey, rechecked the results.
Of the 621 PHDKMs, 28 PHDKMs participated in the survey. Survey questionnaires and results are presented in the Supplementary section. Most of the respondents acquired their KM license in 2020 and 2021 (N = 19; 2020: n = 10, 35.7%; 2021: n = 9. 32.1%) and worked in a rural area (N = 26; Gyeongsang-do: n = 8, 28.6%; Jeolla-do: n = 7, 25.0%; Gangwon-do: n = 5, 17.9%; and Chungcheong-do: n = 5, 17.9%).
1. Clinical practice status
Regarding the status of clinical practice, more than 90% of PHDKMs treated ≤ 10 SC participants in the last year (5: n = 23, 82.1%; 6–10: n = 3, 10.7%). About 10% of respondents answered that they had treated 11–20 SC participants (n = 2, 7.1%). Regarding abstinence rate, the number of cigarettes smoked before treatment (A) minus the number of cigarettes smoked after treatments (B), divided by the number of cigarettes smoked before treatment (A) was calculated [i.e., abstinence rate = (A−B)/A]. Then respondents were asked to score abstinence rate using a 10-point Likert scale. We indirectly measured the abstinence rate at 56.8% by averaging respondents’ answers. About 60% of respondents were distributed between a score of 5 and 7 (N = 17, 5: n = 7, 25.0%; 6: n = 4, 14.3%; 7: n = 6, 21.4%). More than 60% of respondents reported that smokers showed more than a 50% level of satisfaction (N = 18; 6: n = 3, 10.7%; 7: n = 8, 28.6%; 8: n = 4, 14.3%; 9: n = 1, 3.6%; 10: n = 2, 7.1%) and the average score for satisfaction that PHDKMs identified was 63.2%.
2. SC participants
Regarding age distribution of SC participants, respondents were asked to answer the age of their participants, and multiple responses was the 3rd most popular answer for age range. In the SC participants, most respondents answered that their SC participants were in the age range of 40–50. The 51–60 age range, and the 31–40 age range ranked 2nd and 3rd, respectively, (41–50: n = 18, 51–60: n = 15, 31–40: n = 13). Most SC participants started smoking before their 30s. For the smoking starting age, teenagers and 20s age range ranked the 1st, answered by each 22 respondents. Regarding the period of smoking, SC participants smoked for 11–20 years or more than 21 years (each item: n = 16). SC participants consumed regular cigarettes, and about half of them used electronic cigarettes as well as cigarettes. Regarding the number of SC attempts, most participants tried 2–3 times (each item: n = 17), followed by 4 attempts (n = 11) and one attempt at SC (n = 10). Most SC participants visited PHCs due to worries about their health (students: n = 5, adults: n = 26) and by recommendations made by other people (students: n = 10, adults: n = 19; Table 1).
3. KM treatments for SC
Regarding treatment, most respondents used auricular acupuncture (AA), (n = 23, 82.1%), and acupuncture (n = 17, 60.7%), followed by education (n = 11, 39.3%), and herbal medicine (n = 8, 28.6%). Regarding the importance of KM treatment for SC, respondents were asked to use a 7-point scale; (1) not at all; (2) not important; (3) not very important; (4) usually; (5) somewhat important; (6) important; or (7) very important) to register their opinion (convenience was changed from “important” to “convenient).” The convenience of KM treatment for SC was counted as the number of “somewhat important,” “important,” or “very important” responses. Over 50% of respondents emphasized AA, acupuncture, herbal medicine, and education was important, and selected AA, acupuncture, and education as convenient (Table 2). Regarding the frequency of treatments, KMDs in public health sector conducted treatment 1–2 times a week (each item: n = 12, 42.9%). The duration of intervention was 1–2 months (n = 11, 39.3%) followed by 0.5–1 month (n = 6, 21.4%), 2–3 months (n = 4, 14.3%), and 3–6 months (n = 4, 14.3%).
In detail, among 22 respondents who answered using AA, the most frequently used AA points were lung (CO14, n = 18, 81.8%), endocrine (CO18, n = 18, 81.8%), shenmen (TF4, n = 17, 77.3%), and throat (TF3, n = 13, 59.1%). Of the 28 respondents, acupuncture points were chosen in accordance with the latest knowledge from published studies and CPGs (n = 21, 75%), and diagnosis based on traditional KM theory (n = 13, 46.4%). We also asked about the use of herbal medicine, only 5 respondents answered, and there was no tendency to use the herbal medicine to aid SC.
4. Perception about KM on SC
Regarding perception of KM treatment, respondents were asked to check 1 option using a 5-point scale: (1) not at all; (2) no; (3) usually; (4) yes; or (5) it really is, and the number of “yes” and “it really is” items were counted. The survey asked about the feasibility of KM for SC and withdrawal symptoms and whether KM alone would be sufficient treatment for SC. Respondents did not think that KM treatments alone were sufficient for SC or superior to other therapies (KM effectiveness alone on SC: n = 11, 39.3%; comparison with other medications: n = 12, 42.9%). Instead, they thought that KM treatments could control the withdrawal symptoms and be used in combination with other treatment (n = 26, 92.9%). The other therapies that respondents preferred to use in combination (ranking question) were behavior therapy (n = 23), education (n = 21), and NRT (n = 18; Table 3).
Addiction (including drugs, alcohol, and nicotine) has emerged as a major problem in society. It has caused numerous socioeconomic burdens and physicians have demanded effective treatment strategies [18]. KM treatments exert an antiaddiction effect. Several reviews on acupuncture and herbal medicine suggest the possibility of complementary options to conventional treatment for addiction [19,20].
Regarding SC, PHCs in South Korea have carried out most of the work, and many articles have reported on the success rate of SC in PHCs [21,22]. However, research into the clinical status of SC following KM treatment in PHCs is lacking. Therefore, this survey investigated the clinical practice of SC, demographic characteristics of SC participants, and the possibility of KM treatment as the alternative option for SC.
Most smokers who received KM treatment in PHCs were in their 40–50s, had around 20 years of smoking experience, and had tried to stop smoking 2–3 times. The characteristics of smokers were similar to the previous reports which have been reviewed by Wang et al [12]. This systematic review of 24 randomized controlled trials using acupuncture for SC reported the characteristics of the included studies. Among them, 11 out of 18 studies showed 40s–50s mean age, and 9 out of 19 studies showed 20-year history of smoking.
The most used KM treatment for SC observed in this survey was acupuncture. AA ranked 1st and manual acupuncture ranked 2nd. In clinical practice, studies have reported the clinical efficacy of acupuncture on SC [12,23]. In addition, the effectiveness and safety acupuncture point stimulating techniques such as acupressure, transcutaneous electrical acupoint stimulation, laser acupuncture, and acupoint catgut embedding has been reported with few adverse events [2426]. Regarding the mechanism by which acupuncture facilitates SC, it has been reported (using functional magnetic resonance imaging) that acupuncture can regulate brain activation, nerves, and connective tissue and can decrease cue-induced cravings during SC [27,28].
Among KM treatments, AA was selected as the most frequently used treatment. AA is a treatment method that is convenient (easy to hold and perform) and versatile (can be used for a variety of conditions including addiction, pain, obesity, anxiety, nausea, and sleep disorders) [29]. In SC, various designs for studies using AA have been conducted. One study reported the efficacy of AA compared with sham AA, and other studies have used NRT or behavior education as an add-on to acupuncture, and acupuncture has been used as monotherapy [3032]. Regarding AA points, previous trials [3335], and randomized controlled trials [36] have used various points including shenmen (TF4), endocrine (CO18), lung (CO14), and throat (TG3).
The abstinence rate in this survey was 56.8%, with an average 63.2% level of satisfaction in the treatment. Similarly in substance-use disorders, acupuncture and herbal medicines have been proposed as safe and feasible options to reduce drug usage and alleviate craving symptoms [37,38]. These results may show the possibility of KM treatments playing a diverse role in substance-use disorder rehabilitation programs, including SC, with considerable patient satisfaction and adherence.
Through this survey, there is a glimpse of the KM treatments used for SC in PHCs, their effectiveness, and satisfaction with those treatments which was considered excellent. However, this survey has some limitations. Firstly, less than 30 KMDs in public health sector participated in this survey. Therefore, any results from this study may not be generalizable and there may be a possibility of statistical bias. Secondly, use of other KM treatments including herbal medicine was not common. We asked the respondents to write the name of decoction used for SC with a short-ended answer, but there were only 4 responses. Thirdly, there was discrepancy between the respondents’ actual treatment use and their thoughts. Due to the circumstances of the workplace, respondents may not have access to laser acupuncture or pharmacopuncture. So, even though these treatments are highly valued but not used, but the importance of these treatments was observed in the survey. This implies the need for further studies involving general KMDs in various clinical environments. Furthermore, the survey was limited to KMDs in public health sector and the results could be overestimated, resulting in recall bias. The opinions of SC participants regarding abstinence rate and satisfaction level also need to be considered. Based on this, more surveys and high-quality related research needs to be conducted.
This survey aimed to investigate the clinical practice and the perception of PHDKMs on KM treatments for SC. Although the study size was small, clinical effectiveness of KM, the satisfaction of SC participants, and the emphasis on KM treatment combined with other therapies was observed. Based on this study, further clinical research would be needed.
Supplementary material is available at doi:

Author Contributions

Conceptualization: WSS. Methodology: EJK. Formal investigation: JHM. Data analysis: GEP and JHM. Writing original draft: GEP. Writing - review and editing: WSS, EJK, BKS, and YHB.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.



Ethical Statement

This study was approved by the institutional review board of Dongguk University Bundang Oriental Hospital in Republic of Korea (no.: DUBOH IRB 2022-0006).

Data are available in supplementary materials.
Table 1
The Characteristics of SC Participants
Question Factors N (%)
Main period* (y) Before elementary school 1
Elementary school student 1
Middle school student 2
High school student ≤ 20 4
21–30 10
31–40 13
41–50 18
51–60 15
61–70 8
71–80 2

Started smoking period* (y) Before elementary school 1
Elementary school student 1
Middle school student 7
High school student ≤ 20 22
21–30 22
31–40 9
41–50 2
51–60 1
61–70 1
71–80 1

Duration of smoking* ≤ 1 mo 1
1–6 mo 2
7–12 mo 6
1–5 y 11
6–10 y 15
11–20 y 16
> 21 y 16

Main form of smoking Regular cigarette 28 (100.0)
Electronic cigarette 13 (46.4)
High-end cigarette 0 (0.0)
Others 0 (0.0)

The number of attempts to stop smoking* None 6
1 × 10
2 × 17
3 × 17
4 × 11
5 × 5
> 6 × 5

* 1st, 2nd, & 3rd answer choice.

Multiple responses.

SC = smoking cessation.

Table 2
The Usage, Importance, and Convenience of KM Treatment for SC
KM treatment Usage Importance, N (%) Convenience, N (%)

N (%) Somewhat Important Very Somewhat Convenient Very
Auricular acupuncture 23 8 (28.6) 10 (35.7) 2 (7.1) 9 (32.1) 9 (32.1) 4 (14.3)

(82.1) Total 20 (71.4) Total 22 (78.6)

Acupuncture 17 8 (28.6) 8 (28.6) 1 (3.6) 10 (35.7) 4 (14.3) 1 (3.6)

(60.7) Total 17 (60.7) Total 15 (53.6)

Laser acupuncture 0 1 (3.6) 2 (7.1) 1 (3.6) 2 (7.1) 2 (7.1) 0 (0.0)

(0.0) Total 4 (14.3) Total 4 (14.3)

Thread embedding acupuncture 1 1 (3.6) 2 (7.1) 1 (3.6) 3 (10.7) 0 (0.0) 0 (0.0)

(3.6) Total 4 (14.3) Total 3 (10.7)

Pharmacopuncture 0 2 (7.1) 3 (10.7) 1 (3.6) 3 (10.7) 2 (7.1) 0 (0.0)

(0.0) Total 6 (21.4) Total 5 (17.9)

Moxibustion 5 3 (10.7) 3 (10.7) 2 (7.1) 2 (07.1) 0 (0.0) 1 (3.6)

(17.9) Total 8 (28.6) Total 3 (10.7)

Chuna 0 2 (7.1) 2 (7.1) 1 (3.6) 1 (03.6) 0 (0.0) 0 (0.0)

(0.0) Total 5 (17.9) Total 1 (03.6)

Herbal medicine 8 5 (17.9) 8 (28.6) 5 (17.9) 6 (21.4) 4 (14.3) 2 (7.1)

(28.6) Total 18 (64.3) Total 12 (42.9)

Education 11 4 (14.3) 9 (32.1) 12 (42.9) 6 (21.4) 7 (25.0) 4 (14.3)

(39.3) Total 25 (89.3) Total 17 (60.7)

Others 0 N/A N/A

(0.0) N/A N/A

KM = Korean medicine; SC = smoking cessation.

Table 3
The Perception of KM Treatment on SC
Factor The degree of perception, N (%)

Yes It really is
Korean medicine treatment alone is enough for achieving smoking cessation 8 (28.6) 3 (10.7)
11 (39.3)

Korean medicine treatment can control withdrawal symptoms 11 (39.3) 11 (39.3)
22 (78.6)

Korean medicine treatment is better than other smoking cessation therapies 8 (28.6) 4 (14.3)
12 (42.9)

Korean medicine treatment can be used with other smoking cessation therapies 22 (78.6) 4 (14.3)
26 (92.9)

KM = Korean medicine; SC = smoking cessation.

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        A Survey of the Clinical Practice of Korean Medicine for Smoking Cessation in Public Health Centers: A Web-Based Survey of Public Health Doctors of Korean Medicine
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