Acupuncture, nicotine gum and other quit-smoking techniques are only slightly more effective than advice and repeated encouragement in helping smokers conquer their craving for cigarettes, a government report said.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a government-coordinated committee of researchers, evaluated 39 stop-smoking programs and found it was the amount and variety of personal advice and support that determined success rather than the type of quit-smoking technique."Basically, what they need is for people to keep telling them over and over that they're better off quitting," said Dr. Thomas Kottke, a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and lead author of the study. "That sort of support is going to be much more effective than any gimmick or drug."

The researchers reported Thursday in the Journal of the American Medical Association that the overall success rates of such programs averaged only 5.8 percent higher than the success rates of groups of people trying to kick the habit who participated in no special program and relied only on advice and encouragement from family and friends.

"There are no magic bullets," Kottke said.

However, another study in the AMA journal concluded that clonidine, a drug used to treat high blood pressure, may help some smokers quit by reducing their desire for cigarettes. Researchers said their findings must be confirmed by further studies.

The two studies follow Surgeon General C. Everett Koop's report saying cigarettes and other tobacco products are as addictive as cocaine and heroin. Tobacco addiction kills more than 300,000 Americans every year by causing cancer, heart disease and other ailments, Koop said.