Stop smoking products

Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)

One of the main reasons that people continue to smoke is because they are addicted to nicotine. Nicotine is the drug that keeps you smoking, but it is the other chemicals in cigarettes that make smoking so harmful.

NRT is commonly used to help people stop smoking. It gives your body the nicotine it craves without the toxic chemicals that are found in cigarettes. It works by giving a fixed dose of nicotine, which is gradually reduced over time. This reduces your cravings for a cigarette and manages them in a safe way.

  • Two products can be used together for more effective reduction of cravings.
  • NRT is normally used for up to 12 weeks starting on the day you have chosen to stop smoking.
  • NRT is safe to use in pregnancy but check with your GP or midwife first.
  • NRT can be used from 12 years of age
  • These products are supplied on prescription if you choose to access your local stop smoking service or, if not, they can be bought at pharmacies and other retail outlets, eg supermarkets.

Types of NRT

  • Nicotine patches - get you through the day, without worrying about cravings. They work by releasing small doses of nicotine through the skin. Choose between 16 hour and 24 hour patches, to suit your requirements. Patches take about 30 minutes to get going, so if you need a quicker hit you may need to look at other products.  Use with a faster acting product for maximum effectiveness. If you access the stop smoking service, your Stop Smoking Advisor will help you decide which is best for you. 
  • Inhalator - looking a little like a cigarette, an Inhalator releases nicotine vapour which is absorbed through the mouth and throat.  This might suit you if you miss having something to do with your hands when not smoking.
  • Need a day-­long treatment you can regulate yourself? Gum, Microtabs, Lozenges & Oral Film are all taken by mouth and can help you when you need them. Use them regularly throughout the day not just when you get a craving.
  • Need to beat the cravings NOW? The Mouth spray and Nasal spray deliver a quick dose of nicotine through the lining of the mouth/nose.  Use once or twice an hour.  May cause irritation to start with.

E-Cigarettes

Also known as E-cigs or Vapes are currently the most popular stop smoking aid in England and evidence indicates that they can help people quit for good. They can be particularly effective when combined with expert face-to-face support. Experts estimate that vaping is at least 95% less harmful than smoking cigarettes. E-cigarettes deliver nicotine through a vapour rather than smoke by heating and vapourising a solution that typically contains nicotine, propylene glycol or vegetable glycerine, and flavourings. Unlike conventional cigarettes, E­-cigs do not burn tobacco and do not produce tar or carbon monoxide – two of the most damaging elements in tobacco smoke, which you inhale from cigarettes. E-cigarette vapour contains some potentially harmful chemicals also found in tobacco smoke, but at much lower levels.

E-cigarettes can help you manage your nicotine cravings. To get the most out of it, make sure you're using it as much as you need to and with the right strength of nicotine in your e-liquid. You won't get the full benefit from vaping unless you stop smoking cigarettes completely.

E-cigarettes aren't currently available from the NHS on prescription, so you can't get one from your GP. There are several different types of e-cig, if you'd like help choosing the right e-cig and liquid, a specialist vape shop can give you lots of advice, see the Find a Vape Shop website or you can talk to your local stop smoking advisor, see our Smoking Services page.

Alternative medicated treatments

Varenicline (branded as Champix) and Bupropion Hydrochloride (branded as Zyban) both work by reducing your craving for a cigarette by binding to receptors in the brain, blocking the ability of nicotine from cigarettes to stimulate these receptors. In addition Champix also reduces the affects you feel if you do have a cigarette, reducing the desire to smoke by acting on the same receptors in the brain as nicotine. With either treatment you set a date to stop smoking, and can start taking tablets one or two weeks before this date with treatment normally lasting for up to 12 weeks. They are only available on prescription or available through certain registered Pharmacies and are not available if you are pregnant, if you are under the age of 18 or if you have some pre-existing conditions (it is important you consult a doctor or healthcare professional before commencing with these products).

For more information about stop smoking products, see the following factsheets: