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Stop smoking aids

Willpower is important when you're stopping smoking, but it's easier when combined with some extra support.

Stop smoking treatments really help with managing nicotine cravings and other tobacco withdrawal symptoms. They also boost your chances of successfully quitting, especially if you get expert support from your local stop smoking service.

If you have tried stop smoking aids before, it's worth trying again because you may need to try a few to find what's right for you.

Types of stop smoking aids

The different stop smoking aids include:

  • nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs), such as patches, sprays, gum and lozenges
  • nicotine vapes (e-cigarettes)
  • prescription-only medicines (tablets)

You can ask a doctor or pharmacist for more advice on what's right for you, or get free expert support from a stop smoking service – for the best chance of quitting for good.

Nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs)

NRTs give you nicotine (the addictive substance in cigarettes and tobacco) without any of the harmful chemicals. They can help reduce the withdrawal symptoms of quitting.

NRTs have been widely used for many years as a safe treatment to help with quitting. They can be bought from pharmacies, supermarkets and some other shops. They may also be prescribed by a doctor or a stop smoking service.

Did you know?

Nicotine is relatively harmless. It's the many toxic chemicals in tobacco smoke that cause nearly all the damage from smoking.

How to use NRTs

To get the best results, it's a good idea to use a combination of NRTs.

A nicotine patch releases nicotine slowly into your system, to help keep you at a constant level, while a fast-acting product – such as a spray, inhaler or gum – helps you deal with immediate cravings.

When choosing NRTs, think "low and slow" combined with "strong and fast".

Use as much NRT as you need to help you manage your cravings. When you feel ready, you can reduce your dose gradually and eventually stop.

It's recommended that NRTs are used for about 12 weeks or for as long as they're needed to stop you from smoking again.

Types of NRTs

There is a range of NRT products to choose from. It's about finding a combination that works for you.

Nicotine patches

These deliver a steady dose of nicotine through your skin. You can wear a 24-hour patch all the time, to help with cravings when you wake up, or a 16-hour patch for while you're awake.

Patches come in different strengths. If you're a heavier smoker, you should start with a higher strength.

Nicotine nasal spray

This delivers nicotine through the lining of the nose. It's the fastest way that nicotine can enter the bloodstream.

Nasal sprays mimic the rush you get from smoking more closely than other NRT products.

Nicotine mouth spray

This delivers nicotine through the lining of the mouth and throat. Like a nasal spray, it's very fast acting.

Nicotine inhaler

This delivers nicotine through the lining of your mouth and throat.

The inhaler mimics the "hand-to-mouth" habit of smoking. It works faster than gum and lozenges.

Nicotine gum

You chew the gum and then rest it on the inside of your cheek to deliver nicotine through the lining of your mouth and throat.

Gum is available in different strengths and gives short bursts of nicotine fast.

Nicotine lozenges

You suck a lozenge and then rest it inside your cheek to deliver nicotine through the lining of your mouth and throat.

Lozenges come in different strengths and give short bursts of nicotine fast.

Nicotine microtabs

These are small tablets that dissolve quickly under your tongue to deliver nicotine through the lining of your mouth and throat.

Nicotine vapes (e-cigarettes)

Vapes are electronic devices that let you inhale nicotine in a vapour instead of smoke. This is done by heating a solution (e-liquid), which comes in different nicotine strengths and flavours.

Vapes come in a variety of models. They can be bought from specialist vape shops, some pharmacies, supermarkets and other shops. Unlike NRTs, they are not available on prescription from a doctor or other healthcare professional.

Research shows that nicotine vapes are an effective tool for quitting smoking. People who use a vape daily together with support from a stop smoking service have the most success at quitting.

Experts agree that although vapes are not risk-free, they carry a small fraction of the risks of cigarettes.

Nicotine pouches

Tobacco-free nicotine pouches are fairly new in the UK and currently are not recommended as a stop smoking aid, due to a lack of research on how safe or effective they are for stopping smoking.

Nicotine pouches are placed between the lip and gum, and come in different nicotine strengths and flavours.

They may help some people with nicotine withdrawal symptoms.

Prescription-only medicines

There are 2 prescription-only stop smoking medicines, which are in tablet form:

  • varenicline (brand name Champix)
  • bupropion (brand name Zyban)

These medicines do not contain nicotine, but they can help with withdrawal symptoms.

If recommended by a doctor or a stop smoking adviser, they can be taken together with nicotine replacement products.

Only bupropion is available in the UK at this time. Varenicline is currently unavailable due to supply issues.

Speak to a doctor or stop smoking adviser about availability or an alternative treatment.

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