Would the laser be a bright idea for quitting smoking? Let’s put it bluntly: not really. Smokers looking for a miracle cure for their addiction have, however, seen an advertisement pop up on their Facebook accounts for this miracle method promising them to be able to give up cigarettes after just one session – billed at almost 200 euros all at once. even. On what principle would the miracle then be based? Has its effectiveness been demonstrated?

The laserostop.com centers, present almost everywhere in France, explain that the principle consists of stimulating areas of the external ear (the pinna) with a beam of light, based on the principle that there is a deep link between this ear area and our brain. It is in fact a derivative of a relatively widespread pseudo-science, auriculotherapy, which consists of applying acupuncture techniques to the ear. The technique would, according to its defenders in any case, stimulate the release of dopamine, a pleasure hormone released by the brain. In any case, this is what the magic remedy would consist of allowing one to “become free from nicotine dependence in a single session (…) by eliminating the craving and the desire to resume smoking from the first moments” following the treatment .

Like any pseudo-science worthy of the name, the company attempts to give itself a scientific veneer by increasing the use of scientific jargon. Like the use of the term “photobiostimulation” which can be summarized as a technique which consists of sending light to the skin (you may know this mechanism by another name: tanning). We can read on the site that light “provides a very specific mechanism which will give rise to a set of subatomic reactions which are then transmitted at the microscopic and then physiological level represented by Artnz Schultz’s law”. Whoever wants to understand what could possibly be hidden behind this headless noise. We will simply point out that the “Arndt-Schulz” law (and not “Artnz” as written on the provider’s website) is a cardinal principle of homeopathy (another pseudo-science) stipulating that poisons could have effects beneficial at low doses. It has long been abandoned in pharmacology.

According to a meta-analysis carried out by the Cochrane collaboration in 2014, the laser method actually shows no benefit for quitting smoking. Despite this, the website laserostop.com assures that “the treatment of tobacco addiction by laser makes it possible to act on the physical causes of dependence, but also on the symptoms which accompany it (stress, alteration of taste and smell). ‘smell). It also helps reduce irritability, frustration, anxiety resulting from quitting smoking. Better yet, the laser helps you quit smoking without gaining weight, by limiting the need to compensate for the lack of nicotine by snacking.”

How can we explain the success of the site and what are the potential dangers for users? “As in all addictions, people are fond of simple, quick, immediate methods, without suffering or effort” recalls Nicolas Simon, professor of addictology at the Timone hospital (AP-HM), in Marseille. Whether or not these have demonstrated their effectiveness ultimately matters little to them, as long as the promise, too good to be true, is there.

If the laser technique itself does not work, the Cochrane study nevertheless notes that monitoring and listening by a practitioner, the financial investment and the associated placebo effect could contribute to helping the smoker to quit. But there could also be perverse effects. “What is problematic with laser or any unsuitable treatment is that people risk feeling a feeling of failure,” underlines Nicolas Simon. “When people make esoteric choices or use poorly dosed nicotine substitutes, they will have the impression that nothing is working. This is not good because it demotivates.”

Common sense must finally prevail: why turn to expensive, non-reimbursed methods, which have not demonstrated their effectiveness, when solutions exist? “Nicotinic substitutes work very well when they are well dosed,” recalls Professor Nicolas Simon. “We must overcome the fear of overdose, because the problem is in reality the underdosage of nicotine which does not sufficiently remove the desire to smoke, causes weight gain and a feeling of failure. » Remember that nicotine substitutes can be prescribed by a doctor, nurse, dentist or physiotherapist and are then reimbursed by health insurance and mutual insurance companies.