Smoking Cessation and Nicotine Replacement

If you smoke, giving up is probably the biggest single step you can take to improve your health.

Smoking is responsible for one in every five deaths in adults and half of all long-term smokers will die prematurely due to a smoking-related disease.

Giving up smoking increases your chances of living a longer and healthier life, even if you've smoked for 40 years. You'll start to notice the benefits soon after quitting. For example:

  • After one month your skin will be clearer, brighter and more hydrated
  • After three to nine months your breathing will have improved, and you will no longer have a cough or wheeze
  • After one year your risk of heart attack and heart disease will have fallen to about half that of a smoker

If you want to quit smoking, it's a good idea to see your CarePlus Pharmacist who can provide help and advice about quitting.

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT)

After smoking for a while your body adapts to getting regular doses of nicotine from your cigarettes. When you stop smoking you quickly remove the nicotine in your body. This means you suffer withdrawal, leading to:

  • Bad moods
  • Feeling irritable
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • A craving for cigarettes

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) works by releasing nicotine steadily into your bloodstream at much lower levels than in a cigarette, without the tar, carbon monoxide and other poisonous chemicals present in tobacco smoke.

This helps control your cravings for a cigarette when your body starts to miss the nicotine from smoking and improves your mood.

NRT comes in different forms, including:

  • Skin patches
  • Chewing gum
  • Inhalators, which look like plastic cigarettes through which nicotine is inhaled
  • Tablets, strips and lozenges, which you put under your tongue
  • Nasal spray
  • Mouth spray

Speak to your CarePlus Pharmacist to see which treatment is right for you.

When deciding, it helps to think about the type of smoker you are. For example, are you a heavy smoker who needs a cigarette as soon as you wake up, or are you an occasional smoker who only smokes when they are out having a drink, or after a meal?

Some heavy smokers find a 24-hour patch useful, as it helps to relieve the cigarette craving when waking up. Others prefer using an NRT nasal spray or mouth spray, because they're the fastest-acting form of NRT.

Some smokers find it useful to combine NRT products. For example, they wear patches through the day, then use gum or an inhalator to help relieve a sudden craving for a cigarette. There's good evidence this is more effective than using only one type of NRT and can be particularly helpful for heavy smokers.

Most courses of NRT last eight to 12 weeks before you gradually reduce the dose and eventually stop. Most people stop using NRT altogether within three months, although heavy smokers may need to use it for longer.

Side effects are usually mild to moderate, but if they become particularly troublesome, contact your GP as the dose or type of NRT may need to be adjusted.

Stop smoking medication

There are prescription treatments that are available from your GP and they can offer you advice

Cutting down before you quit

If you don't feel ready to stop smoking completely, your GP may suggest a method of quitting known as nicotine-assisted reduction to stop. This involves using NRT to cut down before you eventually stop smoking.

If your GP suggests this approach, you will be prescribed NRT gum or an inhalator to use between cigarettes. These forms of NRT are best for use between cigarettes because they release a short burst of nicotine, rather than patches for example, so the NRT offers a safe substitute for your cigarettes.

When cutting down, you should try and prolong the gaps between cigarettes for as long as you can, and steadily reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke.

By six weeks of NRT treatment, you should aim to have cut your usual cigarette consumption by half and have stopped smoking completely by six months. The quicker you can cut down, the better. If you feel ready, it's best to have a quit day.

Visit your CarePlus Pharmacy for more advice.