The Food and Drug Administration has yet to make companies break the habit of marketing laser treatment smoking cessation, a therapy the FDA has never approved, and a therapy which some professionals believe to be ineffective.
Dr. Sidney Wolfe, Health Research Group director of the Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group, decried the procedure's continued availability and the FDA's inaction.
"Medical evidence, in the form of properly conducted clinical trials, demonstrates that its effectiveness is indistinguishable from that of a placebo," Wolfe said.
Public Citizen petitioned the FDA on June 22 to immediately stop five companies from "illegally marketing and promoting laser treatment for smoking cessation."
Freedom Laser Therapy (FLT), based in Santa Monica, Calif., has taken the most heat for its website and marketing procedures.
But Craig Nabat, FLT president told ConsumerAffairs.com that the procedure works. "The lower power lasers cause an endorphin release that tricks the mind and body," he said.
However, Nabat said that the laser is just the catalyst and that the person must take over-the-counter antioxidants and continue to watch videos that come with the procedure in order to quit smoking.
Nabat would not say what percentage of FLT customers have successfully quit smoking. He said he has hired a private research firm to document the procedure's results.
Nabat said FLT has been around since Sept. 2003 and that if it didn't work he would be out of business by now. "This procedure has been around for 30 years in Canada and Europe," he said.
Soon after the Public Citizen petition, FLT stopped all advertising and pulled down the great majority of content from its website.
"We want to make sure everything is compliant," Nabat said.
Wolfe said FLT has been targeted for its "considerable web and TV hype." Nabat believes that his company is under fire because it is "the most high tech."
Wolfe told ConsumerAffairs.com that this $349 procedure is harmful because people trying to stop smoking waste their money and often give up quitting after this "too-good-to-be-true" procedure doesn't work.
Wolfe said smokers trying to quit should use FDA-approved methods such as nicotine gum and the patch along with regular doctor visits. Wolfe said it's easier to tackle the mental portion of the addiction if there is someone, such as a doctor, coaching the quitter.
FDA spokeswoman Heather Howe did not return phone calls seeking comment.