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 U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) can help you stop for good.

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

Your chance of successfully quitting is even better when you combine counseling with one or more quit-smoking products.

Quit-smoking products fall into two main categories:

  • Nicotine replacement products. Options include patches, gum, lozenges, spray and inhaler. Although some are available without a prescription, it's best to talk with your doctor before trying them.
  • Medications. Two medications that don't contain nicotine are available 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.

Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) have gotten attention as an alternative way to quit smoking. But e-cigarettes aren't an FDA-approved quit-smoking product. They aren't as safe as nicotine-replacement products. Nor are they more effective in helping people stop. In fact, many people who use e-cigarettes to stop smoking end up using both products rather than quitting.

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

Cons

The nicotine patch:

  • Can't quickly adjust the amount of nicotine you receive if you have sudden cravings or withdrawal symptoms
  • May cause skin itching, rash or irritation where it's applied
  • May cause insomnia or vivid dreams
  • Must be replaced every 24 hours

Overview

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.

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 strengths
  • Can control sudden nicotine cravings and withdrawal symptoms
  • Can be used in combination with other quit-smoking aids

Cons

Nicotine gum:

  • Must be used repeatedly throughout the day to control cravings or withdrawal symptoms
  • May cause mouth irritation, jaw soreness, heartburn, hiccups or nausea
  • May stick to or damage dental appliances

Overview

Nicotine lozenges are tablets that contain a small amount of nicotine. 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.

Pros

Nicotine lozenges:

  • Are available without a prescription
  • Can control sudden nicotine cravings and withdrawal symptoms
  • Are available as mini-lozenges that deliver nicotine more rapidly
  • Don't require chewing and don't stick to dental appliances
  • Can be used in combination with other quit-smoking aids

Cons

Nicotine lozenges:

  • Must be used repeatedly throughout the day to control cravings or withdrawal symptoms
  • May cause mouth irritation, hiccups, heartburn or nausea

Overview

The nicotine inhaler is a device that gives you a small dose of nicotine. When you puff on the nicotine inhaler, nicotine vapor is released from a cartridge inside the device. The nicotine enters your bloodstream as it's absorbed through the lining of your mouth and throat.

Pros

The nicotine inhaler:

  • Can control sudden nicotine cravings and withdrawal symptoms
  • Allows you to control the dose of nicotine you receive
  • Keeps your hands busy
  • Can be used in combination with other quit-smoking aids

Cons

The nicotine inhaler:

  • Is available only by prescription
  • Must be used repeatedly throughout the day to control cravings or withdrawal symptoms
  • May cause mouth or throat irritation
  • May not be a good choice if you have a breathing condition such as asthma

Overview

The nicotine nasal spray delivers a solution into your nostrils that contains a small dose of nicotine. The nicotine enters your body by being absorbed through the lining of your nose. The recommended dose is one to two sprays in each nostril once or twice an hour.

Pros

Nicotine nasal spray:

  • Can control sudden nicotine cravings and withdrawal symptoms
  • Works faster than other nicotine-replacement products
  • Allows you to control the dose by using the spray as needed throughout the day
  • Can be used in combination with other quit-smoking aids

Cons

Nicotine nasal spray:

  • Is available only by prescription
  • Must be used repeatedly throughout the day to control cravings or withdrawal symptoms
  • May cause nasal and throat irritation, rhinitis, sneezing, coughing or watery eyes
  • May not be a good choice if you have a nasal or sinus condition

Overview

Bupropion is a prescription medication classified as a type of antidepressant. An extended-release form of bupropion is approved to help people stop smoking.

Bupropion is thought to decrease tobacco cravings and withdrawal symptoms by increasing the levels of certain brain chemicals.

It takes several days for bupropion to achieve effective levels in the blood. You typically should start taking bupropion a week or two before you quit smoking.

Pros

Bupropion:

  • Is a pill, so it's relatively easy to use
  • Can be used in combination with other quit-smoking aids
  • May reduce the weight gain many smokers experience after quitting cigarettes

Cons

Bupropion:

  • Is available only by prescription
  • Must be taken twice a day
  • May cause dry mouth, headache or insomnia
  • May cause changes in mood or behavior, which should immediately be reported to your doctor
  • Is not recommended if you have seizures

Overview

Varenicline is a prescription medication that can help reduce cravings for tobacco and control nicotine withdrawal symptoms. It also blocks nicotine receptors in your brain, which decreases the pleasurable effects of smoking.

It takes several days for varenicline to reach effective levels in the blood. You typically should start taking varenicline a week or two before you quit smoking.

Pros

Varenicline:

  • Is a pill, so it's relatively easy to use
  • Can be used in combination with other stop-smoking aids

Cons

Varenicline:

  • Is available only by prescription
  • Must be taken twice a day
  • May cause nausea, insomnia, and vivid or strange dreams
  • May cause changes in mood or behavior, which should immediately be reported to your doctor

The most effective strategy to quit smoking for good is to combine a quit-smoking product with a program that includes support from professionals trained to treat tobacco dependence. Consider joining a community stop-smoking group or starting in-person or telephone counseling.

March 21, 2020