Quit-smoking products: Boost your chance of success

Quitting smoking is hard, but quit-smoking aids can boost your chance of success.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Want to stop smoking? Several quit-smoking products approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) can help you stop for good.

Using smoking-cessation products can greatly increase your chance of success. Only about 5 percent of people who try to quit tobacco succeed without a quit-smoking product. But more than 30 percent succeed when using one.

Your chance of successfully quitting is even better when you combine behavior therapy with one or more quit-smoking products. You're more than twice as likely to quit smoking if you use prescription medication and professional support than if you try to quit on your own.

Types of quit-smoking products

Some quit-smoking products are known as nicotine replacement therapy because they contain varying amounts of nicotine. Some of these nicotine replacement therapies require a prescription, but others don't. There are two approved quit-smoking medications that don't contain nicotine, and both are available only by prescription.

Any of these products can help reduce nicotine cravings and withdrawal symptoms — making it more likely that you'll stop smoking for good.

Although you can buy some quit-smoking products without a prescription, it's best to consult your doctor first. Together you can explore which ones might be right for you, when to start taking them, and possible risks and side effects.

Electronic cigarettes have gotten a lot of attention recently as an alternative way to quit smoking traditional cigarettes. However, more studies are needed to determine the effectiveness of electronic cigarettes for smoking cessation and the long-term safety of these devices.

Nicotine patch

Overview

The nicotine patch is a small, self-adhesive patch that releases a slow, steady amount of nicotine into your body through your skin. You apply a new nicotine patch every day on a hairless area of skin between your waist and neck, such as your upper arm or chest.

Pros

The nicotine patch:

  • Is available in various doses without a prescription
  • Is easy to use
  • Can control nicotine cravings and withdrawal symptoms for 24 hours at a time
  • Can be used in combination with other quit-smoking aids
  • Can be gradually tapered off as your cravings and withdrawal symptoms decrease

Cons

The nicotine patch:

  • Can't quickly adjust the amount of nicotine you receive if you have sudden cravings or withdrawal symptoms. However, you may be able to use a second quit-smoking medication along with the patch when a craving arises.
  • May cause nausea. A lower-dosage patch may help.
  • May cause skin itching, rash and irritation where it's applied. To minimize potential skin irritation, avoid putting the patch in the same place more than once every two weeks or so.
  • Can cause sleep disturbances and vivid dreams. Removing the patch at night may help.
  • Must be replaced every 24 hours.

Cautions

If you have certain skin conditions, such as eczema or psoriasis, you may more easily develop skin irritation if you use the patch.

Timeline

It's typical to use the nicotine patch for eight to 12 weeks. You may need to use it longer if cravings or withdrawal symptoms continue. Talk to your health care provider if you think you need to use it longer.

Nicotine gum

Nicotine gum contains a small amount of nicotine. The nicotine enters your body as it's absorbed through the lining of your mouth when you use the gum according to directions.

Nicotine gum is often used in combination with the nicotine patch and other quit-smoking medications. When you first start using nicotine gum, you can use a piece every one to two hours, up to 24 pieces a day.

You must follow a specific biting technique for nicotine gum to work effectively:

  • To release nicotine from the gum, bite a piece until it has a peppery taste or you notice a tingly sensation in your mouth
  • To let the nicotine absorb, hold the gum between your gumline and cheek until the taste or tingly sensation stops
  • To release more nicotine, bite and hold again
  • Repeat the cycle for about 30 minutes, then discard the gum because all the nicotine in it has been used

Pros

Nicotine gum:

  • Is available without a prescription in two doses — 2 milligrams (mg) or 4 mg
  • Can control the sudden nicotine cravings and withdrawal symptoms that you might experience while using other quit-smoking medications

Cons

Nicotine gum:

  • Must be used repeatedly throughout the day to control cravings or withdrawal symptoms
  • Can cause side effects such as mouth irritation, nausea, stomach upset, excess saliva and jaw soreness from too much biting

Cautions

Nicotine gum can damage or stick to dental appliances.

Timeline

Nicotine gum is recommended for up to 12 weeks. You can start by using a piece every hour or two, and then gradually reduce the frequency as cravings and withdrawal symptoms decrease.

Nicotine lozenge

Overview

Nicotine lozenges are tablets that contain a small amount of nicotine (2 mg or 4 mg). You place a lozenge between your gumline and cheek and suck it slowly, allowing it to dissolve. The nicotine enters your bloodstream as it's absorbed through the lining of your mouth.

As with nicotine gum, nicotine lozenges are often used in combination with the nicotine patch and other quit-smoking medications. You can generally use up to 20 lozenges a day.

Pros

Nicotine lozenges:

  • Are available without a prescription
  • Can control the sudden nicotine cravings and withdrawal symptoms that you might experience while using other quit-smoking medications
  • Are available as mini-lozenges that deliver nicotine more rapidly
  • Don't require chewing and don't stick to dental appliances

Cons

Nicotine lozenges:

  • Must be used repeatedly throughout the day to control cravings or withdrawal symptoms
  • Can cause side effects including nausea, indigestion, heartburn, throat irritation or hiccups

Timeline

Nicotine lozenges are recommended for about 12 weeks. Reduce the number of times a day you use the lozenges as your cravings and withdrawal symptoms decrease.

Feb. 18, 2017 See more In-depth