Skip to main content

Warning notification:Warning

Unfortunately, you are using an outdated browser. Please, upgrade your browser to improve your experience with HSE. The list of supported browsers:

  1. Chrome
  2. Edge
  3. FireFox
  4. Opera
  5. Safari

​​Choosing a treatment to stop smoking

Learn about choosing nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) or prescription medicines to help you stop smoking and how combining them may help.

There are different types and strengths of NRT. Talk to your stop smoking advisor, pharmacist or GP about the right option for you.

Choosing a type of NRT

Before you choose a type of NRT, think about how much and when you used to smoke.

Some points to help you to choose the right type for you:

  • Nicotine gums, lozenges and inhalers are fast-acting cigarette substitutes. You can put them into your mouth, they let you control your dosage and help to keep cravings under control.
  • Nicotine mouth spray is a fast-acting product and works quickly when you need it.
  • Nicotine inhalers are like a cigarette in the sense that you hold them in your hand and puff on the inhaler. They are also fast-acting.
  • Nicotine patches are convenient because you only have to put them on once a day.

Medical conditions or allergies

You may not be able to use some forms of NRT if you have certain allergies or conditions. 

For example, if you:

  • have diabetes, check the ingredients on the packaging of nicotine gums and lozenges - they are usually sugar-free
  • wear dentures, avoid nicotine gum
  • have skin conditions, avoid patches
  • breathing conditions, avoid inhalers

There are some situations when you may not be able to use NRT.

Talk to your GP if you are unsure or if you:

  • are pregnant
  • are under 18
  • have recently had a heart attack

How to use NRT

Read the instructions that come with your NRT.

Only use NRT:

  • at the recommended dose
  • for as long as it's recommended

The recommended treatment time for all NRT products is 12 weeks. You should take NRT for a minimum of 8 weeks.

If you use a different dose or stop taking it too soon, your NRT will not work the way it should.

Prescription medicines

You can get medicine on prescription to help you stop smoking. It can triple your chances of quitting successfully. Your GP or a stop smoking advisor can help you decide the best treatment for you. Medicines include Zyban or Champix.

Make an appointment with your GP before you plan to give up smoking. You need to start taking the medicine around 2 weeks before your quit date.

At your appointment, your GP will ask you about your medical history and other medicines you take. They will tell you which medicine is suitable for you.

Combination therapy

Combination therapy means using a fast-acting form of NRT at the same time as the nicotine patch.

You only need to use 1 nicotine patch a day. But with combination therapy, you can also use a fast-acting form of NRT every hour.

Fast-acting forms of NRT include the gum, spray, lozenge or inhaler. Using the fast-acting NRT may help if you get cravings throughout the day.

Using just one type of NRT may not have worked for you in the past. Combination therapy can increase your chances of quitting.

Your GP or stop smoking advisor may also recommend that you combine NRT with a prescription medicine.

Page last reviewed: 5 October 2022
Next review due: 5 October 2025