Stop smoking medication

Licensed stop smoking medication is available free of charge for people using a Help Me Quit service. This does not include electronic cigarettes as these are not licensed as a medication. Medication is supplied either on NHS prescription via your GP or by a community pharmacy providing a stop smoking service.

Not all community pharmacies provide a stop smoking service.

Using licensed stop smoking medication drastically improves your chances of successfully quitting. Many smokers choose to use stop smoking medication to assist in difficult situations where cravings are harder to ignore, or to help manage the withdrawal symptoms experienced during the first few weeks of stopping.

Using stop smoking medication with expert support is the best way to quit.

Information about stop smoking medication can be found below. Your stop smoking expert can provide further information about stop smoking medication if needed.

Licensed medication available

Using it:

  • New day, new patch.
  • Wear for day and night (24 hours patch) or take off at night (16 hour patch).
  • Can be used in combination with some stop smoking medication.
  • Different strengths available to meet individual need.

Good Points:

  • Gives a constant level of nicotine throughout the day.
  • Easy to use and discreet.

Things to think about:

  • You should not smoke when using the patch.
  • The patch takes a while before you will feel the effects.
  • Wearing it to bed can cause vivid dreams in some people.
  • Some people get irritation from the adhesive.
  • Not to be used on broken skin.

Free and available on NHS:

  • Yes

Not suitable for:

  • Children under 12.

Further information:

  • For pregnant smokers, the use of stop smoking medication is preferable to continuing to smoke but only when quitting without medication has failed. Stop smoking medication other than patches are preferable.
  • Advice should be sought from your GP or healthcare professional before using stop smoking medication for patients with certain medical conditions such as epilepsy, diabetes, renal problems or recent cardiovascular disease.

Using it:

  • Very small tablets or lozenges
  • Dissolves in the mouth by being placed under the tongue or next to the gum lining.
  • They should not be chewed or swallowed.
  • Different strengths available to meet individual need.
  • Can be used in combination with patches.

Good Points:

  • Discreet product to use.
  • Fast acting.
  • Can be used in preparation for an event e.g. before a journey.

Things to think about:

  • Need to be used frequently and regularly for a steady supply of nicotine.
  • Avoid eating and drinking whilst using product.

Free and available of NHS:

  • Yes

Not suitable for:

  • Children under 12.

Further information:

  • For pregnant smokers, the use of stop smoking medication is preferable to continuing to smoke but only when quitting without medication has failed. Stop smoking medication other than patches are preferable.
  • Advice should be sought from your GP or healthcare professional before using stop smoking medication for patients with certain medical conditions such as epilepsy, diabetes, renal problems or recent cardiovascular disease.

Using it:

  • Tablet similar in size to a large mint.
  • Dissolves in the mouth by placing between the cheek and gum lining.
  • They should not be chewed or swallowed.
  • Different strengths available to meet individual need.
  • Can be used in combination with patches.

Good Points:

  • Discreet product to use.
  • Fast acting.
  • Can last for up to an hour.

Things to think about:

  • Avoid eating and drinking whilst using product.
  • Can cause hiccups and salivation.

Free and available of NHS:

  • Yes

Not suitable for:

  • Children under 12.
  • Some lozenges only suitable for children 12 to 18 if recommended by a doctor.

Further information:

  • For pregnant smokers, the use of stop smoking medication is preferable to continuing to smoke but only when quitting without medication has failed. Stop smoking medication other than patches are preferable.
  • Advice should be sought from your GP or healthcare professional before using stop smoking medication for patients with certain medical conditions such as epilepsy, diabetes, renal problems or recent cardiovascular disease.

Using it:

  • A plastic mouthpiece that comes with nicotine cartridges which are changed at regular intervals.
  • Puff on it like a cigarette and the nicotine is absorbed through the lining of the mouth.
  • Can be used in combination with patches.

Good Points:

  • Good if you prefer something that mimics the hand to mouth habit of smoking.
  • Small, so easy to carry around in a bag or pocket.
  • It can be used during strong urges, such as a night out or a busy time at work.
  • Can be used in public spaces as no smoke/vapour is released.

Things to think about:

  • It can be quite strong at first and can hit the back of the throat.
  • The cartridges should be kept at room temperature before use, to help deliver the nicotine more quickly.
  • Avoid eating and drinking whilst you are using product.

Free and available of NHS:

  • Yes

Not suitable for:

  • Children under 12.

Further information:

  • For pregnant smokers, the use of stop smoking medication is preferable to continuing to smoke but only when quitting without medication has failed. Stop smoking medication other than patches are preferable.
  • Advice should be sought from your GP or healthcare professional before using stop smoking medication for patients with certain medical conditions such as epilepsy, diabetes, renal problems or recent cardiovascular disease.

Using it:

  • Should be chewed slowly until the taste becomes strong and then parked between the cheek and gum lining.
  • They should not be chewed like normal gum.
  • Different strengths to meet individual need.
  • They should not be swallowed.
  • Can be used in combination with patches.

Good Points:

  • Discreet product to use.
  • Looks like normal gum.
  • Multiple flavours available.

Things to think about:

  • Can cause indigestion if not used as per product instructions.
  • The taste can be quite strong and takes time to get used to.
  • Avoid eating and drinking whilst using product.
  • Gum could stick to dentures or orthodontic appliances such as braces.

Free and available of NHS:

  • Yes

Not suitable for:

  • Children under 12.
  • Liquorice flavoured stop smoking medication should be avoided in pregnancy.

Further information:

  • For pregnant smokers, the use of stop smoking medication is preferable to continuing to smoke but only when quitting without medication has failed. Stop smoking medication other than patches are preferable.
  • Advice should be sought from your GP or healthcare professional before using stop smoking medication for patients with certain medical conditions such as epilepsy, diabetes, renal problems or recent cardiovascular disease.

Using it:

  • The spray releases a liquid dose of nicotine into the mouth.
  • Should be sprayed, avoiding the lips.
  • Swallowing should be avoided for a few seconds after spraying.
  • Can be used in combination with patches.

Good Points:

  • Fast acting.
  • Discreet and easy to use.

Things to think about:

  • Avoid eating and drinking whilst using the product.
  • Can cause hiccups and a hot sensation in the mouth.

Free and available of NHS:

  • Yes

Not suitable for:

  • Children under 12.

Further information:

  • For pregnant smokers, the use of stop smoking medication is preferable to continuing to smoke but only when quitting without medication has failed. Stop smoking medication other than patches are preferable.
  • Advice should be sought from your GP or healthcare professional before using stop smoking medication for patients with certain medical conditions such as epilepsy, diabetes, renal problems or recent cardiovascular disease.

Using it:

  • The top is pressed down, to deliver a measured dose of nicotine in the nasal area.
  • Should be used as required in each nostril.
  • Should be used little and often throughout the day to help manage cravings.
  • Can be used in combination with patches.

Things to think about:

  • Fast acting.
  • Very effective in helping with urges.

Free and available of NHS:

  • Yes

Not suitable for:

  • Children under 12.

Further information:

  • For pregnant smokers, the use of stop smoking medication is preferable to continuing to smoke but only when quitting without medication has failed. Stop smoking medication other than patches are preferable.
  • Advice should be sought from your GP or healthcare professional before using stop smoking medication for patients with certain medical conditions such as epilepsy, diabetes, renal problems or recent cardiovascular disease.

Using it:

  • Oral tablet taken twice a day.
  • Should be started whilst still smoking.
  • You are encouraged to stop smoking within the first 14 days of taking the medication.
  • Dose is increased at intervals during a 12 week period.
  • 12 week course, however, in some case it can be altered.

Good Points:

  • Easy to use.
  • Twice daily dosing.
  • Can reduce the urge to smoke and remove the pleasure associated with smoking.

Things to think about:

  • Should not be used with other stop smoking medications.
  • Common side effects for some people include taste disturbances, nausea, headache, insomnia, abnormal dreams, swelling of the nasal passages.

Free and available of NHS:

  • Prescription Only Medicine
  • Usually can only be supplied by a GP or prescriber. Limited availability via some community pharmacies in certain areas.

Not suitable for:

  • Under 18s.
  • Certain medical conditions. Check with your GP.
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding mums.

Using it:

  • Oral tablet taken once a day initially and increased to twice a day.
  • Should be started whilst still smoking.
  • Smokers are encouraged to stop smoking within 1-2 weeks of taking the medication.
  • 7-9 week course.

Good Points:

  • Twice daily dosing.

Things to think about:

  • Should not be used with other stop smoking medications.
  • Common side effects include insomnia, rash, dry mouth, dizziness, headache and impaired concentration.

Free and available of NHS:

  • Prescription Only Medicine.
  • Usually can only be supplied by a GP or prescriber.

Not suitable for:

  • Under 18s.
  • Certain medical conditions. See your GP.
  • Pregnant women and breastfeeding mums.

Un-licensed stop smoking aids – not available on prescription

For additional information, please see our page on e-cigarettes here.

Using it:

  • Device heats a solution (that amongst other ingredients, typically contains nicotine), producing a vapour that is inhaled.
  • Available in a variety of nicotine strengths.
  • Multiple flavours available.

Good Points:

  • Easy to use.
  • Mimics behaviour of smoking.

Things to think about:

  • Not available free on the NHS so can be expensive.
  • No products are licensed as a medicine.
  • Long term effects are unknown.
  • Some places, including many workplaces have a voluntary ban on people using e-cigarettes indoors and on premises.

Free and available of NHS:

  • No

Not suitable for:

  • Under 18s.
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding mums.

Can I use stop smoking medication if I’m pregnant?

Stopping smoking is the single most important thing you can do to improve your health and that of your unborn baby. Ideally you should try to give up smoking without the use of medication but if you can’t manage this and you need help with your cravings, you can use stop smoking medication. The risks to your unborn baby are far less than if you were to carry on smoking. If you have sickness or nausea, during your pregnancy, stop smoking patches may be preferable to gum, lozenges, tablets or inhalators.

Can I use stop smoking medication if I’m breastfeeding?

Yes. The amount of nicotine found in breast milk from using a licensed stop smoking medication is much smaller and less harmful than that arising from smoking tobacco.
If you are breastfeeding it is better to use oral products rather than patches and avoid using them just before breastfeeding. Second hand tobacco smoke can cause breathing difficulties and other problems in babies and children so it is best to avoid smoking around them. If you have a partner or other family member who smokes, encourage them to give up smoking with you.

Storing medication safely

All products containing nicotine, such as cigarettes, stop smoking medication and e-cigarettes should be kept away from children. Nicotine is highly poisonous to children and even a small amount can be very dangerous.

  • If you think your child has ingested or used any nicotine products, seek medical advice immediately.
  • Out of sight and out of reach – keep all nicotine containing products out of sight and out of reach of children.
  • Store them in a high locked cupboard.
  • Children learn by copying adults so avoid using any nicotine containing products in front of children.
  • Dispose of nicotine products according to the manufacturer’s instructions e.g. used patches should be folded in half and thrown away in the main bin.
  • Keep personal belongings containing nicotine products out of reach e.g. handbags, rucksacks and coat pockets.

Your stop smoking expert will be able to provide you with more information about storing and using licensed stop smoking medication.