For heavy, long-term smokers, simply stopping smoking through will-power alone is often too much to ask. People might quit for days, weeks or months even, but stopping permanently is best achieved through a more thought out approach, and the use of nicotine-containing products (such as nicotine patches, gum, or spray) can help lifelong smokers to cut down prior to stopping, or to reduce the amount they smoke gradually. A steady move towards cutting out cigarettes and nicotine also helps avoid compensatory smoking and increases the chances of stopping in the longer term.
There are a number of ways to access these products. In the UK, many smokers will be able to get nicotine patches or tablets on prescription via their GP whilst there are a number of products available in pharmacies. There is also a large online market for nicotine-containing products but it’s always best to seek professional advice before investing in a product bought on the Internet.
There are a number of things to consider if you are thinking about using nicotine-containing products when trying to quit:
- You can continue to use licensed nicotine-containing products in the long term, rather than risk relapsing after you have stopped using cigarettes.
- Licensed nicotine-containing products are a safe and effective way of reducing the amount that you smoke. They can be used as a complete or partial substitute for tobacco, either in the short or long term. A key point is that if you smoke heavily it is better to use these products and reduce the amount you smoke than to continue smoking at your current level.
- You should learn how to use licensed nicotine-containing products correctly. This includes understanding how to achieve a sufficiently high dose to control cravings, prevent compensatory smoking and achieve your goals on stopping or reducing the amount they smoke.
- You can use one product on its own or try a combination of different ones. Using more than one product is more likely to be successful, particularly if you are a highly dependent smoker. (Some products are fast acting and deal better with immediate cravings, whereas others are long acting and provide a steadier supply of nicotine).
- Try to gradually replace each cigarette with a licensed nicotine-containing product, for example, a lozenge or piece of gum. Ideally you should use this before the usual time you would have had the cigarette, to allow for the slower nicotine release from these products.
- Again though, check out the products you decide to use. Some nicotine-containing products are not regulated by the Medicine and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and, therefore, their effectiveness, safety and quality cannot be assured.