10 myths about stop smoking treatments

There are many myths and misconceptions surrounding stop smoking medicines such as nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and prescription tablets. Here are 10 common myths, and the truth behind them.

Types of NRT:

  • patches
  • gum
  • mouth spray
  • nasal spray
  • lozenges
  • microtabs – tablets you put under your tongue which dissolve and release nicotine 
  • inhalator – a plastic mouthpiece plus nicotine cartridges that you draw on like a cigarette, releasing nicotine vapour into your mouth and throat (not lungs) 

Quitting smoking isn’t easy. But a growing number of stop smoking medicines make it easier than ever for you to break your addiction to nicotine.

The three types of NHS-endorsed stop smoking aids available to help you quit are:

  • nicotine replacement therapy (including patches, gum, lozenges, microtabs, inhalators and mouth and nasal sprays)
  • Champix (varenicline) tablets
  • Zyban (bupropion) tablets

Nicotine replacement therapy is widely available on prescription from a doctor and over-the-counter from pharmacies.

Zyban and Champix are prescription-only nicotine-free pills you take to reduce your craving for tobacco and help with withdrawal symptoms. In studies, Champix has been shown to work better than Zyban.

Read the patient information leaflet for Champix.

Read the patient information leaflet for Zyban.

An NHS stop smoking adviser can help you find the medication that suits you, but you can try them in any order and sometimes more than one product can be used at the same time. They are generally used for 12 weeks, with the option of using them for longer if you need to.

Read more about stop smoking treatments.

1. MYTH: Stop smoking treatments don’t really work

THE FACTS: Research suggests that nicotine replacement therapies and the prescription stop smoking tablets (Champix and Zyban) can double and sometimes even triple your chances of successfully quitting.

All stop smoking treatments work best when used as part of a programme that includes:

  • setting a quit date
  • having a plan for dealing with things that make you reach for a cigarette
  • getting support from a doctor or trained stop smoking adviser

Read more about how the NHS Stop Smoking Service can help you quit.

2. MYTH: Nicotine therapy causes cancer

THE FACTS: This is wrong. Nicotine doesn’t cause cancer. It’s the other toxic chemicals in cigarettes, such as tar and carbon monoxide, that damage your health. Nicotine replacement therapy gets nicotine into your body without the dangerous poisons.

3. MYTH: It's dangerous to use more than one nicotine replacement product at a time

THE FACTS: No, it isn’t. In fact, using more than one product at a time – known as combination therapy – can be a good thing as it often increases your chances of success. A popular strategy is to use nicotine patches to reduce everyday cravings plus a nasal spray, gum, lozenges, inhalator or mouth spray for sudden cravings.

Read more about how to cope with cravings.

4. MYTH: Champix will make me feel depressed

THE FACTS: Champix has been linked with occasional reports of depression and even suicidal thoughts. However, it’s not clear whether these side effects were due to the medicine or quitting smoking, and for most people it’s perfectly safe.

Talk over any concerns with your doctor or NHS stop smoking adviser beforehand, especially if you’ve had depression or another mental illness before. Be aware of your moods while you’re taking the tablets and tell your doctor if you notice any change.

5. MYTH: Nicotine replacement therapy is expensive

THE FACTS: You can get NRT either free, or on prescription at a cost of £8.05 each week, from your local NHS Stop Smoking Service or your GP. That’s up to a third cheaper than buying your patches or gum from the pharmacy and is a lot cheaper than continuing to smoke.

As with a lot of medication, it’s important to complete the full course, in this case to make sure you’re properly weaned off nicotine.

Zyban and Champix are nicotine-free pills you take to reduce your craving for tobacco and help with withdrawal symptoms. In studies, Champix has been shown to work better than Zyban.

6. MYTH: Stop smoking treatments will cure me

THE FACTS: NRT and prescription medicines are not a miracle cure. They reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms but they don’t make them go away completely.

You will still need to put a lot of effort into quitting but, as thousands of ex-smokers will testify, the medications really help.

7. MYTH: I can’t use stop smoking treatments if I’m pregnant

THE FACTS: If you’re pregnant, it’s a great time to quit as smoking is much more dangerous to you and your baby.

Talk to your stop smoking adviser or midwife about your treatment options as the prescription tablets Champix and Zyban are not recommended in pregnancy. However, NRT products such as patches, gum, lozenges, microtabs, the inhalator and nasal sprays may be recommended if you're finding it hard to quit.

You can also call the NHS Pregnancy Smoking Helpline on 0300 123 1044. 

Read about stopping smoking in pregnancy.

8. MYTH: I’ve had a heart attack so I can’t use NRT

THE FACTS: Nicotine replacement therapy has been shown to be safe in most people with heart disease. However, because nicotine can increase your heart rate and blood pressure, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor before using nicotine replacement products if you’ve had a heart attack or if you have serious heart problems, such as an irregular or rapid heartbeat (arrhythmia) or chest pain (angina).

9. MYTH: Nicotine replacement products are as addictive as smoking

THE FACTS: Most people using nicotine products do not become dependent on them. In fact, the biggest problem with NRT is that people don't use enough of it for long enough. The nicotine from patches, gum and so on is released into your system much more slowly and in a different way than nicotine from a cigarette. Your body absorbs it more slowly and less reaches your brain.

10. MYTH: I shouldn't take Zyban because it causes seizures

THE FACTS: There is a very small risk of having seizures (fits) when using Zyban. The risk increases if you’ve had seizures in the past. Therefore, it isn’t recommended for anyone with a condition such as epilepsy.

Now, read more about the smoking treatments available on the NHS.

Page last reviewed: 16/01/2014

Next review due: 16/01/2016


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The 4 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Helen 222 said on 02 October 2014

My husband started taking Champix in October 2013. End of November he had his first seizure. He was hurt and had to be admitted to hospital. Three weeks ago he had a seizure while driving and ended up in ICU. He is 39 years old and never had a seizure in his life. I will never touch Champix and will tell anyone who wants to take it to never, ever take even one pill. My husband is on epilepsy medicine for the rest of his life and he is not permitted to drive now.

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Aurora0889 said on 03 September 2014


I used Champix two years ago to give up 30 a day habit and I have to say it was a horrible 3 weeks. I suffer from depression and taking these tablets made it 10 times worse, I wouldn't say I was suicidal but I had some dark and morbid thoughts. Stupidly, after a year and a half I started smoking again due to a death in the family.

I tried every method to give up again but to no avail. I have just been prescribed Champix again and I have to say, other than sickness and some slight irritability (nicotine withdrawals) I feel great. 7 days smokefree :-D :-D

Don't read everyone's reviews on the internet is my advice! The first time round I was cynical about taking a pill to stop smoking and read some awful horror stories online, which I think put unnecessary doubts and worries in my mind.

Everyone is different, of course, but I all I suggest is give it a go with an open mind (and a full stomach - they really upset your tummy!)

Good luck. If I can do it, anyone can! X

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Harry Whine said on 13 August 2013

Tip for those who are attempting to stop smoking:-
When offered a cigarette do not say I have stopped smoking, say I do not smoke.

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Blackdove said on 21 July 2013

I took Zyban for 3 years for depression - never had any adverse affects, worked well for depression, and no seizures. It is safe. Just wish I had of been in the right state to quit at the same time, although depression is more dangerous for your 'health' than smoking one could argue!

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