Different Types of Nicotine Replacement Therapy - How to choose the right NRT for you

by KathleenDuffy

Nicotine Replacement Therapy comes in many forms. Thinking about your situation and choosing the right product can help smooth your path to a smoke-free life.

If you want to stop smoking but are worried about the withdrawal symptoms, Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) is a great option.

However, before taking the plunge it's a good idea to find out as much as you can about the basic differences between types of Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT). There are many different products available and it is impossible to cover all of them in this article. Hopefully the information given here will help you to tailor your NRT choice to suit your personal needs and situation.

And don't forget - your pharmacist can help you to decide which type of NRT product will be best for you from the many different options available.

Talk to Your Pharmacist About NRT

Here's some pointers to think about

 Before visiting your pharmacist it might be useful to think about the following factors which might apply to your smoking problem. This will help your pharmacist to recommend the right product for you.

For instance, he/she may take into consideration:

  • the number of cigarettes you smoke each day;
  • whether you are pregnant or breastfeeding;
  • the time of day you light your first cigarette;
  • whether you have a  problem with the behavioural aspects of smoking, i.e. do you enjoy holding  the cigarette, or is the oral aspect an important factor;
  • the strength of your nicotine cravings;
  • if you have an allergy  to plasters.

On the basis of the above, your pharmacist will be able to help you choose the best product for you.  And don't forget, in the UK you can get some NRT products free with a prescription from your doctor.

Many pharmacists will be able to give you a carbon monoxide test as an incentive to help you to quit. 

Meditation & Hypnosis Can Help When Giving Up Smoking!

Find extra support on your journey..

When Not to Use NRT

 If you suffer from any of the following conditions your doctor may advise you not to use NRT products:


  • severe heart problems;
  • diabetes;
  • thyroid problems;
  • kidney problems;
  • liver problems.

How Does NRT Work?

Some information about different types of NRT


By various methods NRT delivers a supply of nicotine into the bloodstream without the dangerous chemicals present in cigarettes. The most popular and easily-available NRT products (out of the hundreds on the market) are:


These come in various strengths. A patch is placed on the skin and a steady amount of nicotine enters the bloodstream. Your pharmacist may recommend starting with the stronger patch and, over the weeks, gradually reducing the strength.

Gums and Lozenges

These also  come in various strengths and are very slowly chewed (gum)  or sucked (lozenges). They are  useful for those who might otherwise miss the oral satisfaction of having a cigarette in the mouth.

These products usually have a choice of regular, mint or various fruit flavours.  The nicotine reaches the bloodstream through the lining of the mouth.

Unlike patches which deliver a constant supply of NRT, this form of NRT is used when a craving arises.

 Sprays and Inhalators

Sprays are felt to be especially useful for heavy smokers as they give the fastest acting nicotine hit. They also help to satisfy the oral habit that many smokers find so satisfying. 

Inhalators come in a plastic cartridge. The nozzle can be sucked into the nostril or mouth. This action is similar to that used when smoking a cigarette which some smokers might find satisfying.

 Electronic Cigarettes?

There are many other variations on the NRT theme. For instance, electronic cigarettes are the latest thing to hit the shelves, but I have to admit I know very little about them.  

I know people who've tried them but it seems to be a  fad that wears off and I personally don't know anyone who has used them for a significant length of time.  They have a big sell behind them which includes cases and various other fashionable accessories which seem to be designed to keep you hooked on the e-cigarette.  I could be wrong. 

Because they give off a vapour that looks very similar to cigarette smoke they can cause a bit of a rumpus when used in restaurants, on board public transport or at the cinema or theatre!  People mistake them for real cigarettes.

So - unless you enjoy being the recipient of disapproving looks, it might be best to avoid using these in public places.  But then again - they might be just the thing for you!

The Length of Time to use NRT

There are no rules - take your time


The majority of smokers find that after three months they no longer need NRT and are now non-smokers.

However, everyone's journey to a smoke-free life is different - in my case I stayed on NRT mint gum for a year and then spent another year on normal  liquorice-flavoured chewing gum.

I haven't had a cigarette for nearly six years now, so  after many false starts, taking it very slowly worked for me. 

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How to Use NRT Safely

Some things to be aware of with NRT products


It's always a good idea to read the instructions carefully, whichever NRT product you are using.


  • Patches can cause skin irritation in some people.
  • If the dose is too  strong you may find your sleep being disturbed. If you are on a 24-hour      patch try switching to a 16-hour one.
  • Don't use patches if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Instead, use lozenges, gum, sprays or   inhalators.
  • Never use more than one  patch at a time. If your cravings are occasionally unbearable whilst    wearing a strong patch, then you can also  use gum, lozenges or spray  - but not another patch.
  • Never smoke whilst  wearing a patch. You will receive a massive nicotine hit which could prove  fatal.

Lozenges, gum, sprays

  • If you suffer from  stomach ulcers don't use NRT lozenges or gum.
  • Avoid driving whilst  using sprays as they can make the eyes water or bring on a fit of      sneezing.


Nicotine Replacement Therapy - Summing Up


Of course replacing cigarettes is difficult at first - after all, there is a massive amount  of glamorous cultural baggage that has to be given up as well.  Didn't  Bette Davis build a whole career on looking fabulous whilst smoking a cigarette?  Let's face it - smoking can be a sexy illusion. 

But Nicotine Replacement Therapy, whilst not having the same sophisticated edge, (or any edge!) when used sensibly (is there any other way to use it?)  is a wonderful  tool which can help you kick the habit.  


Here are two useful links based in the UK:

Stay Quit - A friendly, non-judgemental site run by professionals  which I found really helpful. They have a great forum, tell you how much money you've saved each day and how many days you've added to your life!  Even if you have a lapse they are still there for you with encouragement.  After six years I still get an occasional e-mail from them asking if I am ok.

Smokefree NHS - a website that advises on free NRT on the UK National Health with lots of information on stopping.



The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or to guide treatment without the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about his/her health should contact a doctor for advice.

Ask the Pharmacist All About Health Magazine, (Issue 9, 2012)


Buy NRT Products on E-bay

Updated: 05/11/2013, KathleenDuffy
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iggy on 01/01/2016

As long as you stop smoking it does not matter which way you do it.

KathleenDuffy on 05/12/2013

I agree about the options - different strokes for different folks! Thanks pkmcr. :)

pkmcr on 05/12/2013

Very useful information and good that people have a range of options available.

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