NRT (Nicotine Replacement Therapy) Products: Do they work?


During the past decade, the world has witnessed a steady decrease in the number of smokers. This is due to a variety of factors, from banning smoking in specific public places, to a steady increase in price, to the devastating medical information about their lethal effect on one’s body. Today, many smokers are quickly looking for new, ensured methods for quitting their worst habit.

According to the website, “70% percent of smokers want to quit altogether.” More interesting is the fact that out of this 70% percent of smokers who want to quit, only “3.5% percent of smokers successfully quit smoking the cold-turkey method.” (This method is when a smoker is able to quit without the aid of any nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products.) The fact that such a low number of smokers are successful at quitting with this method supports the fact that the best method for quitting this habit may be one which would include some type of “nicotine replacement therapy product.”

What exactly are these products and do they even work? According to the American Cancer Society, “the nicotine in tobacco leads to actual physical dependence.” What this means is that if you are a smoker, you can physically experience extremely unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when you try to quit.  NRT can help relieve some of the physical withdrawal symptoms so that you can focus on the psychological (emotional) aspects of quitting. NRT weans the smoker off of nicotine slowly, while getting rid of the far more lethal act of smoking.

Which NRT products are the most effective? It depends. Each of them offers a different method to relieve the symptoms that come with nicotine withdrawal. Below is a breakdown on the most popular ones on the market.

Nicotine Gum: You can buy nicotine gum or lozenges without a prescription.

  • If you are just starting to quit, chew 1 to 2 pieces each hour. However, DO NOT chew more than 20 pieces a day.
  • Chew the gum slowly until it develops a peppery taste. Afterward, tuck it between the gum and cheek and hold it there. This allows the nicotine be absorbed.
  • Wait at least 15 minutes after drinking beverages with acid in them before chewing a piece of gum.

Nicotine Patches: You will also not need a prescription to use nicotine patches. All nicotine patches are placed and used in similar ways:

  • A single patch is worn each day. It needs to be replaced after 24 hours.
  • Patches are worn on different areas (hairless spots) above the waist and below the neck each day.
  • People who wear the patches for 24 hours will have fewer withdrawal symptoms.

Nicotine Nasal Spray: A nicotine nasal spray provides a quick dose of nicotine to satisfy a craving you are unable to ignore. A prescription is not required. Levels of nicotine peak within 5 to 10 minutes after using the spray.

  • It may be used along with the patch.
  • The spray can irritate the nose, eyes, and throat, but these side effects often go away in a few days.

Nicotine Inhaler: A nicotine inhaler is only available through prescription.

  • The design of it is very basic, with a cartridge that contains nicotine that plugs into a plastic mouthpiece.
  • When cravings for a cigarette occur, the inhaler is used much like a cigarette would be.
  • As air passes through the inhaler, nicotine is released in vapor form. Each cartridge is designed to work for about 20 minutes of steady puffing.

Nicotine Lozenges: Much like nicotine gum, this product does not require a prescription. They are likewise used in a very similar way.

  • Nicotine comes as a lozenge to slowly dissolve in the mouth. It is usually used according to the directions on the package, at least 15 minutes after eating or drinking.
  • Use nicotine lozenges exactly as directed. Do not use more or less of them.

Electronic Cigarettes (E-Cigarettes): This type of NRT product has taken the market by storm. Electronic cigarettes (also called e-cigarettes) are battery-operated devices designed to deliver nicotine with flavorings and other chemicals to users in vapor instead of smoke. These products contain the following:

  • a cartridge, which holds a liquid solution containing varying amounts of nicotine, flavorings, and other chemicals
  • a heating device (vaporizer)
  • a power source (usually a battery)

The puffing activates the battery-powered heating device, which vaporizes the liquid in the cartridge. As a result, the or vapor is then inhaled (which is why it is often called “vaping”).

Regarding side effects, some of the products can cause irritation to the nose, eyes and throat, especially if not used appropriately. Some (such as the patch) may cause restlessness and even odd dreams. As with all medicines, these products should be used according to the instructions provided, and with the advice of a medical professional.

With smoking still being the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. (about 20%), hopefully NRT quitting methods will ensure that this number will decrease.