Nicotine replacement therapy

Nicotine replacement therapy - or NRT - really does work. You can try nicotine chewing gum, patches, inhalator, nasal spray, tablets or lozenges.

All these products have been scientifically tested and the results show that they double your chances of stopping. They can be bought over the counter from your pharmacist and are also available on prescription. Some of these products may also be available in other outlets.

Ask your pharmacist or GP for advice about the best NRT for you.

How does NRT work?

NRT works by getting nicotine into your system without the tar, carbon monoxide and other poisonous chemicals you get from tobacco smoke. It is these chemicals in tobacco that are most harmful, not the nicotine. But it's the nicotine that is addictive. So while you're becoming a non-smoker, you can still get nicotine from NRT without the risk of cancer or heart disease. Once you're comfortable not smoking, you can cut out the NRT, gradually if necessary.

Is NRT safe?

NRT is much safer and less addictive than cigarettes. It's not a magic cure, but it will reduce the withdrawal symptoms and the cravings to smoke while you're stopping. However, it's important to remember that NRT isn't meant to feel the same as smoking - it's meant to help you stop.

Nicotine patches

These are available in different doses. The instructions will provide information on which strength is most suitable to begin with. They are extremely convenient but you can't quickly alter the dose - say, to get more nicotine when the craving is particularly strong.

Nicotine gum

You can chew this gum whenever you feel a craving. Try the 2mg gum first, then if you still experience severe craving and withdrawal, try the stronger gum. The taste can be strange at first but for most people this only lasts a week or so. You should read the instructions on how to chew the gum correctly to obtain the most benefit.

Nicotine inhalator

This is a plastic holder with nicotine cartridges that you put on the end. You draw on it like a cigarette and nicotine passes into your mouth.

Nicotine nasal spray

This is nicotine solution, which you spray up your nose. You can absorb nicotine through the nose quicker than with the gum or the patch, but it takes more getting used to, and can irritate the nose.

Nicotine tablets

Placing small tablets under your tongue allows nicotine to be absorbed through the lining of the mouth. These tablets should not be chewed or swallowed.

Nicotine lozenges

As with tablets, the nicotine is absorbed through the lining of the mouth.

Getting help

If you want to talk to someone face-to-face about NRT, ask at your local GP practice, community pharmacist, or stop smoking service. Alternatively you can contact the Smoker’s Helpline on 0800 85 85 85.

If you are pregnant, talk to your doctor, pharmacist or midwife about NRT. A short course of NRT is safer for you and your baby than continuing to smoke.

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