Nicotine replacement therapy are medications that supply you with a low level of nicotine. They do not contain the other poisonous chemicals present in tobacco smoke.

A wide range of NRT is sold in supermarkets and online.

 COVID-19 – Research into previous coronaviruses show that smoking makes the impact of the virus worse.  Smokers are more likely to develop severe disease from the COVID-19 virus, than non-smokers.

In addition, the act of smoking means hands are in contact with the mouth increasing the likelihood of transmission of the virus.

Different types of NRT

There are various different types of NRT:

  • patches
  • gum
  • lozenges
  • inhalers
  • mouth and nasal sprays

Nicotine – Myth Busting

It is a common misconception that it is the nicotine within cigarettes that is harmful, this is not true. Nicotine will get you addicted to cigarettes however the most serious health problems are caused by other ingredients which include formaldehyde, cyanide, ammonia and tar.

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) helps with cravings and is an effective stop smoking tool. In fact, using NRT doubles your chances of quitting smoking.

Nicotine replacement therapies are most effective when you combine them. It’s important to use 2 different types of product as it will make it easier to quit smoking completely.

Patches will deliver nicotine to your body throughout the day and lozenges or strips will provide immediate relief from cravings.

Nicotine patches

Patches release nicotine directly into the bloodstream through the skin and help to relieve cravings and withdrawal symptoms. They can be worn for 24 hours or just 16 hours whilst you’re awake and are available in different strengths. The 24-hour patches are particularly good for those who crave cigarettes when they wake up in the morning.  If you don’t crave cigarettes until later in the day, the 16 hour patches are better because the 24-hour patches can affect your sleep.


Nicotine chewing gum

Nicotine chewing gum is not to be chewed like normal gum. You chew the gum until you notice a hot fiery taste, then park the gum between your lip and gum to let the nicotine be absorbed. The gum comes in either 2mg or 4mg strengths. The downsides are that not everybody likes the taste and some people don’t like the sensation of keeping the gum in their mouth.

Nicotine lozenges

These work best for delivering a short burst of nicotine to relieve cravings. They dissolve slowly in the mouth, taking up to 30 minutes.  People suck the lozenges to release the nicotine then suck again to release more when needed.


Nicotine inhalers

Nicotine inhalers release nicotine vapour that is absorbed into your gums. Using an inhaler mimics the motion of smoking which some find helpful. Inhalers aren’t as powerful in delivering nicotine as a cigarette so in those first few days of quitting it is important to use the inhaler frequently.

Nicotine nasal spray

Nicotine is sprayed into the nostrils and absorbed into the bloodstream through the lining of the nose. It delivers a swift and effective dose of nicotine that is equivalent of smoking one cigarette. Some people do experience side effects while using a nicotine nasal spray, such as coughing and watering eyes.

Nicotine mouth spray

Nicotine mouth-spray is sprayed into the inside of the cheek and is absorbed into the bloodstream through the linings of the mouth.

Did you know...?

For NRT to work, you must:

  • use it correctly – read the instructions carefully
  • use it for long enough – usually for 8 to 12 weeks
  • use enough of it for your level of nicotine addiction

“I’ve tried NRT before and it didn’t work”

Even if you’ve tried one type of NRT before without success, don’t give up on it completely.  There are many forms of NRT and it can be worth trying other NRT methods to see if they work for you.


Frequently asked questions on NRT

How does NRT work?

Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) products release doses of nicotine in the body via different methods, including in the form of patches, chewing gum, inhaler, lozenges and sprays, in order to help people quit smoking.


How do nicotine patches work?

Nicotine patches provide a steady dose of nicotine continuously through the skin into the bloodstream.   The amount of nicotine released is less than from smoking but is enough to help prevent withdrawal symptoms and cravings.


When should I put the patch?

You can wear a nicotine patch at whatever time suits you.  Manufacturers recommend wearing a patch for between 16 and 24-hours a day.


Where to put the patch?

You can put the patch anywhere as long as it is on clean and dry skin. However, try to avoid any areas of your skin that are particularly sensitive.


Can I smoke with a patch?

If you have not yet stopped smoking completely, patches can be used to help cut down the amount of cigarettes you smoke each day as they prevent cravings for a cigarette. However, it is not advisable to smoke at the same time as wearing a patch.


Is NRT dangerous?

Like for all treatments, NRT may give you side effects but for most healthy adults, the nicotine replacement therapy is considered safe. Patches should not be used by children under 12, people with chronic and widespread skin conditions or anyone allergic to the ingredients in the patch.   They should be used with caution by anyone with diabetes, a cardiovascular disease, people with an uncontrolled overactive thyroid gland, tumour of the adrenal gland or kidney or liver problems.  If you are concerned about using the patches consult your doctor beforehand.


What are the sides effects of patches?

Some common side effects include palpitations, shortness of breath, a dry mouth, sore throat, increased sweating, joint and muscle pain, chest pain or tiredness. Less common side effects include an allergic reaction or fast heartbeat.


What can I do if I get side effects?

If you suffer side effects from using a patch consult your GP or pharmacist.


Is it possible to cut my patch in half?

This is not recommended as the release of the nicotine dose would no longer be controlled over a longer period of time and the patch would cease to be effective.


Which nicotine replacement therapy is the most effective?

All forms of nicotine replacement therapy are equally effective and no one product suits everybody. It is a case if finding the method which suits you best.


How long should I use NRT for?

Treatment with NRT usually lasts for 8 to 12 weeks and it is recommended that users should gradually reduce their nicotine dose before stopping altogether.


Can I use different forms of NRT at the same time?


It is possible to use different forms of NRT at the same time, for example to wear a patch and also use a spray. This can be a good way of managing cravings as some products tackle the immediate effects of nicotine craving, while others provide a steady dose of nicotine to keep cravings at bay. However, it is important to discuss combining different forms of NRT with your GP and pharmacist.


Can you become addicted to NRT?


Smoking is highly addictive because it delivers large doses of nicotine to the brain quickly. The nicotine levels in NRT products are far lower and the way the nicotine is delivered means they are less addictive than smoking.  The health problems caused by smoking are due to the tobacco contained in cigarettes, not the nicotine.  It is therefore far safer to use licensed NRT products than to smoke.

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