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What is Nicotine Replacement Therapy?

Nicotine products like patches and gum are often called Nicotine Replacement Therapy, or NRT for short. They help you to deal with nicotine withdrawal cravings, and double your chances of successfully going smokefree.

NRT works differently to cigarettes. It does not contain toxic chemicals like tar or carbon monoxide, and does not cause cancer. You can get NRT on prescription, so being smokefree doesn't have to be expensive. NRT is suitable for most people, however you should check with your doctor if you are pregnant, have a heart or circulatory condition or if you take regular medication.

Nicotine gum

When you chew nicotine gum, the nicotine is absorbed through the lining of your mouth.

Nicotine patches

Nicotine patches work well for most regular smokers and can be worn round the clock (24 hour patches) or just during the day (16 hour patches).


These are small tablets containing nicotine which dissolve quickly when placed under your tongue.


Lozenges are sucked slowly to release the nicotine and take about 20-30 minutes to dissolve.

Nicotine nasal spray

The spray delivers a swift and effective dose of nicotine through the lining of your nose.


Inhalators look like a plastic cigarette. The inhalator releases nicotine vapour which gets absorbed through your mouth and throat. If you miss the 'hand to mouth' aspect of smoking, these may be best for you.

Other treatments available are

Zyban (Bupropion Hydrochloride) is a treatment which changes the way that your body responds to nicotine. You start taking Zyban a couple of weeks before you quit and then continue the treatment for a few weeks to help you through the withdrawal cravings. It's only available on prescription and is not available if you are pregnant.

A new stop smoking treatment called Champix (Varenicline) is now available and has been approved for use on NHS prescription. Champix works by reducing your craving for a cigarette and by reducing the effects you feel if you do have a cigarette. You set a date to stop smoking, and start taking Champix (varenicline) tablets 1 or 2 weeks before this date. Treatment normally lasts for 12 weeks.

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