How safe is Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)?
Therapeutic nicotine products like patches, lozenges and gum are much safer than smoking.
Cigarette smoke, on the other hand, is composed of over 4,000 chemicals and it's these that make it deadly.
NRT products are designed to provide a temporary source of therapeutic nicotine. This can be reduced gradually over a period of time, to make it easier to adjust to life without cigarettes. If you follow your NRT program correctly, you should be nicotine-free by the end.
Although a non-smoker might feel sick if they took an NRT product, they are safe for people who smoke regularly. The side effects you might get from them are generally mild. You might get a slightly sore throat if you use nicotine lozenges or gum. Nicotine patches can cause redness and itching. You should always read the information in the pack before you use a product. In the unlikely event that you experience unusual or severe side effects, contact a healthcare professional (doctor, nurse, smoking cessation advisor or pharmacist).
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding the best course of action is to give up smoking without using an NRT product. However, it is better to stop smoking using these products than to continue smoking. As with all medicines, if you are pregnant and want to use these products you should talk to a healthcare professional first.
NRT products can also be used by people with heart disease unless you're in hospital because of heart problems (and your doctor has not told you it's OK to use NRT).
How should I use NRT products?
You can buy them without prescription at most drugstores and supermarkets.
You should choose the product that suits you best, and follow the instructions carefully. But if you feel you can’t give up by using one product alone, consult a healthcare professional for advice on finding extra support.
Will I get too much nicotine from a therapeutic nicotine product if I was previously smoking low nicotine cigarettes?
The nicotine levels on cigarette packs are highly misleading. Most people who change to low nicotine cigarettes get the same amount as nicotine and tar as they used to because they tend to smoke more of them and inhale deeper. However, if you used to smoke light cigarettes and experience excessive side effects from NRT products, you should consult a healthcare professional and move to a lower dose.
Is there anyone who should not use nicotine-based quit smoking aids?
NRT products should not be used by:
- People with an allergy to nicotine
- People under the age of 12
- People who are in hospital because of heart problems, unless their doctor tells them otherwise
Also, people with certain conditions should consult their doctor before using NRT products. For example if:
- You have serious liver or kidney disease
- You have uncontrolled overactive thyroid gland or phaeochromocytoma
- You have stomach ulcers or other problems with your stomach or throat (oral formats only)
- You are pregnant or breast feeding