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NIU smoke-free July 1: Which NRT is right for you?

February 24, 2015
Nicotine patch (Wikimedia Commons)

Nicotine patch (Wikimedia Commons)

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) has been shown to offer an increased chance of success when it comes to achieving a smoke-free life. But not all NRTs are right for everyone.

It’s important first to consider whether an NRT is needed to quit, or if one can be successful with a method like cold turkey. If nicotine replacement therapy may play a role in quitting, the table below from may be helpful to compare the benefits, drawbacks and costs of each therapy. Then talk to a doctor about plans for quitting and which NRT might be the best.

When choosing a nicotine replacement therapy, it is important to think about which method best fits an individual’s lifestyle and pattern of smoking. The points below highlight the main differences between NRTs. Refer to the table that follows for a list of benefits and drawbacks of each therapy:

  • "Nicotine pastille" by User:Nizil Shah - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 1.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

    “Nicotine pastille” by Nizil Shah. Licensed under CC BY-SA 1.0 via Wikimedia Commons 

    Nicotine gums, lozenges, and inhalers allow control of nicotine dosage to help keep cravings under control.

  • Nicotine nasal spray works quickly to combat cravings when needed.
  • Nicotine inhalers allow the user to mimic cigarette smoking by puffing and holding the inhaler.
  • Nicotine patches are convenient and only have to be applied once a day.
  • Both inhalers and nasal sprays require a doctor’s prescription.
  • Some people may not be able to use patches, inhalers, or nasal sprays due to allergies or other conditions.

Comparison of Nicotine Replacement Therapies

Prescription or OTC*Potential BenefitsPotential Drawbacks
Nicotine Gum
Approx. $120 for 2 weeks
·         Convenient

·         Delivers nicotine into the system more quickly than the patch

·         Can cause bad taste/ throat irritation

·         Cannot eat or drink while chewing

Nicotine Lozenge
Approx. $6 per day for average usage and $12 per day for maximum usage
·         Convenient

·         Lasts for 30 minutes or more

·         Can cause soreness of the teeth and gums, indigestion, and throat irritation
Nicotine Patch
Both available – Talk to your doctor.
Approx. $50 for 2 weeks of use
·         Easy to use

·         Few side effects

·         Delivers nicotine more slowly than other methods

·         Can cause skin irritation

·         Can cause racing heartbeat

Nicotine Nasal Spray
Prescription – Talk to your doctor.·         Delivers nicotine quickly

·         Effective at reducing sudden cravings

·         Can cause nose and sinus irritation at first, but usually goes away

·         Not recommended for those with asthma and allergies

Nicotine Inhaler
Prescription – Talk to your doctor.·         Few side effects

·         Delivers nicotine to the system as quickly as nicotine gum

·         Mimic the inhaling action of a cigarette

·         May cause coughing, mouth or throat irritation

·         Not recommended for people with asthma or chronic lung disease

Bupropion Hydrochloride
Prescription – Talk to your doctor.·         Easy to use

·         Few side effects

·         Not recommended for people with seizures, eating disorders, who are pregnant or breastfeeding or taking an MAO (Monoamine oxidase) inhibitor, a class of anti-depressant drugs.
Varenicline (Chantix)
Prescription – Talk to your doctor.·         Easy to use

·         Can more than double the chances of quitting smoking

·         May cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, trouble sleeping, unusual dreams, flatulence (gas), and changes in taste

*OTC stands for over-the-counter, meaning one can buy this medicine without a prescription.

Note: The content in this section is for informational purposes. Not all nicotine replacement therapies are right for everyone. Be sure to discuss the option of nicotine replacement therapy with a doctor or healthcare provider.