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Can lasers help you stop smoking? Check the data


5 Star

Can lasers help you stop smoking? Check the data

Our Review Summary

This story does something that few stories accomplish. It takes on a flashy topic – lasers to stop people from smoking – and deconstructs the science, or lack thereof, being used to sell it. Often stories about buzzworthy treatments focus on the weird factor and not on the evidence. This story, through great use of independent experts and scientific literature, provides readers with a full picture.


Why This Matters

Smoking causes about one out of every five preventable deaths in the US, and it is one of the toughest addictions to kick. Obviously people with the will to quit would like to be able to do so in one easy visit to a laser spa. By allowing scientific claims like the ones these laser spas use to go unchecked, health reporters are doing their readers a disservice. This story may actually encourage people to save their money and make a more serious effort to quit.


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?


The story explains that the company profiled "charges $350 for a one-time treatment that takes less than an hour, and offers free extra treatments to patients who are still struggling with quitting in the following 6 months. Other companies do a few shorter therapy sessions as part of their regular treatment plan."

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?


The alleged benefits are quantified, and, from there, the story takes pains to explain how much evidence supports these claims.

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The story does not address the potential harms of laser therapy, which was surprising given how careful the story is in other regards.

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?


We don’t often see subheads like this: "’NOT ENOUGH EVIDENCE’ IN SCIENTIFIC TERMS; NOT FDA-APPROVED FOR QUITTING SMOKING; WON’T WORK ON EVERYBODY." Beneath each subhead, the story dismantles the scientific claims of laser therapy proponents piece by piece.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


The story does not disease-monger smoking, although it could have spent a little more time with the health effects and societal costs of smoking.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?


The story makes extensive use of independent sources and the scientific literature. This story could be a lesson plan for someone wanting to teach a course in how to cover "breakthrough" treatments. 1. Find the studies being used to make these claims. 2. Read them. 3. Talk to the authors. 4. Talk to others who have done research in a similar vein.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?


The story does a great job placing the therapy into the larger context of interventions to help people quit smoking, particularly acupuncture.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?


The story explains how these laser treatments are part of an emerging trend that grew out of acupuncture.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?


The story makes it clear that the treatments are new but not necessarily different from acupuncture.

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?


There is no news release. In fact, the story is a direct response to inflated claims made about laser therapy.

Total Score: 9 of 10 Satisfactory


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