The number of smokers seeking help to quit through acupuncture has fallen, despite more mobile treatment clinics being set up across the city.
The news came as the Health Department's Tobacco Control Office reported a success rate of up to 30 per cent at the clinics in helping clients to quit.
A total of 1,149 smokers sought help from 20 mobile facilities and eight walk-in clinics run by Pok Oi Hospital in the 12 months to March last year.
From April 2010, when the programme started, to the end of 2011 it saw 2,388 smokers.
The figures cannot be compared directly because they relate to time periods of different length. But the number of smokers seen in the first 21 months of the service works out at about 114 a month, while for the 12 months from April 2012 - when the hospital started annual reporting - the number works out at about 96.
The hospital last year added two mobile clinics to cover a total of 100 locations, up from 90 in 2012. The number seeking treatment is a tiny proportion of the total number of smokers - 645,000 according to data released last year by the Census and Statistics Department.
"Nicotine addiction is an illness as defined by the World Health Organisation, but it is one for which people refuse to seek treatment," said Dr Yang Jinsheng, professor of acupuncture at Beijing's China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences.
A joint effort by Pok Oi Hospital, the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine and the Health Department, the programme offers free acupuncture and counselling services to smokers aged 18 or older. The success rate for a full year's treatment is 29.9 per cent and for a 26-week course it is 24.9 per cent.
The Tobacco Control Office also noted a new trend in which women seemed less determined to quit smoking, which it attributed to the city's falling birth rate and a lack of incentive to protect children.
"While 61 per cent of men expressed a lack of determination in quitting smoking, 68 per cent of women admitted lacking determination. This is a new phenomenon," said Dr Christine Wong Wang, who heads the office.