Croatian charged over odd treatments to quit smoking

ZAGREB (AFP) - A Croatian pensioner who allegedly choked patients in his bathroom until they fainted in a bid to wean them off cigarettes faces a possible prison term for "charlatanism", prosecutors said on Friday.

With a client list that included a former government minister and a local pop star, 69-year-old Petar Miro Zanki thought he had hit on an unorthodox way of breaking the smoking habit.

But questions have been raised over the self-proclaimed chiropractor's methods, which included covering clients' faces with a towel and blowing cigarette smoke into their face, according to the Jutarnji List daily.

Another favoured treatment involved stimulating acupressure points on clients' necks, making them lose breath.

Two unsatisfied clients complained to prosecutors, saying Zanki had squeezed their necks until they passed out.

They said the method had failed to help them quit smoking.

Operating out of his bathroom in the central coastal town of Trogir, Zanki lacked any necessary qualifications for carrying out his unconventional treatments, the prosecutor's office said in a statement.

Zanki has been charged with "charlatanism", which carries a potential prison sentence of up to six months.

But some clients have come out in defence of Zanki's unusual methods, with a former agricultural minister and local celebrities saying they had positive experiences, according to local media.

The treatments - which Zanki carried out between 2011 and 2012, cost 200 euros (S$346) per session, the prosecutors said.

Croatia, which joined EU last year, banned smoking in all public places in 2009.

The Balkans are home to Europe's most determined smokers, with 30 to 40 per cent of all adults hooked on the habit, according to the World Health Organisation.