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Could laser therapy help you quit smoking?

06:12 PM Mountain Standard Time on Thursday, November 17, 2005

By Brandy Aguilar / 3TV Producer

We've all heard about people going cold turkey while others have relied on gum or the nicotine patch.

But what if you could wipe away years of smoking in just 30 minutes? A new technology claims to do just that.

A Valley man puts a low-level laser therapy to the test. Can it extinguish his 34-year addiction?

More Info

Freedom Laser Therapy

Maricopa County Tobacco Use Prevention

"I would like to see what it's like to be 60 years old without a breathing machine," Mitch Varbel of Chandler said.

Varbel has been smoking at least two packs of cigarettes a day for the last 34 years.

He's tried several things to break his nicotine addiction, everything from hypnotism to going cold turkey, but he said nothing has worked.

Varbel is ready to stop lighting up not only for himself, but for his health, and he's banking on a new low-level laser therapy to do the trick.

"We use the laser to stimulate energy points in hands, face and the ears," said Craig Nabat, president of Freedom Laser Therapy in Santa Monica, Calif. "It's based on the principles of acupuncture."

"What the low-level laser does is it increases the endorphins production, helping the client through the crucial detox period," Nabat explained. "It calms them down and it almost replaces the feeling they would normally feel through the nicotine."

A former smoker himself, Nabat learned about this technology after being treated in Canada.

"We've coined the phrase 'Quit smoking in 30 minutes' because that's all you need," he said.

During a typical 30-minute session, clients are not only treated with the laser, they must also watch a video dealing with the psychological aspects of addiction.

Once the 30-minute sessions are complete, Nabat sends his clients off with vitamins to help cleanse the body of harmful toxins and a book on why not to smoke.

The idea is to give people like Varbel all the tools they need to refrain from smoking.

But Laurie Thomas with the Maricopa County Tobacco Use and Prevention Program said according to research, the highest quit rates are found in people who join a support group or use FDA-approved medication.

"People do have to be careful in what they're looking for to make sure the research has been done and that they're going to get the product that will help them the most in their quest to quit smoking," Thomas said.

Nabat believes the client has to really want to quit in order to be successful.

"You actually have to have the desire to quit smoking," he said. "Laser is not going to get you off smoking. Ultimately, and first and foremost, we ask the client, 'Do you want to quit smoking?'"

So how did Varbel feel after the 30-minute session?

"Right now I don't have an urge for a cigarette," he said. "I think the hardest part is going to be in the morning because when you roll over, the first thing I do is light a cigarette up."

This is not approved by the FDA. However, Nabat is participating in investigational clinical trials to measure the safety and effectiveness of the low-level laser therapy.

So how did Varbel do after his treatment?

He ended up smoking a cigarette at the end of that day. Since then Varbel said he's cut his two packs down to only five cigarettes a day. He feels the laser worked even though he hasn't gone cold turkey.

The cost for the low-level laser therapy is $399.