Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)

There are lots of stop smoking aids that can provide the extra support you need to beat the addiction.

What is NRT?

Nicotine replacement therapies (NRT), include patches, gum, lozenges, microtabs, inhalators and nasal sprays.

Cigarettes contain nicotine. By smoking regularly and over a long period of time, your body becomes dependent on it. Giving up smoking can cause nicotine withdrawal symptoms, which include cravings, headaches, feeling irritable and not being able to sleep. Stop smoking medicines like NRT can help you manage these withdrawal symptoms.

All are available from the NHS with a prescription, and NRT can also be bought from pharmacies and other shops (such as supermarkets) without a prescription.

How does NRT work?

NRT gives you some of the nicotine that you would have received from cigarettes, but without all the harmful stuff like tar, cyanide and carbon monoxide.

NRT has been used by millions of smokers to help them stop. A full course of treatment usually lasts for 8-12 weeks, but because NRT is so much safer than smoking, it can be used for longer periods if it helps you to not smoke.

Is NRT safe? 

Some people think that using NRT is just swapping one addiction for another. But this isn’t true.

Smoking is highly addictive, largely because it delivers nicotine very quickly to the brain and this makes stopping smoking difficult. The nicotine levels in licensed nicotine-containing products are much lower than in tobacco, and the way they deliver nicotine makes them less addictive than smoking.

Most health problems are caused by other components in tobacco smoke, not by the nicotine. It is safer to use licensed nicotine-containing products than to smoke. There is reason to believe that lifetime use of licensed nicotine-containing products will be considerably less harmful than smoking.

Nicotine Gum 

Gum is available in two strengths: 2mg and 4mg. The 4mg gum is most appropriate for smokers who smoke more than 20 cigarettes a day, or who are strongly addicted to nicotine.

Gum can be helpful because it provides short bursts of nicotine. However, some people dislike the taste and habitual users of ordinary chewing gum may find it difficult to get used to having to ‘park’ the gum in their mouth.

Nicotine Patches 

Nicotine patches work well for most regular smokers and can be worn round the clock (24-hour patches) or just during the time you are awake (16-hour patches). They work by releasing nicotine directly into the bloodstream through the skin.

There are two ways to use patches: just during the time you are awake (16-hour patches) or both day and night (24-hour patches). The 24-hour patch may cause some sleep disturbance but is helpful for people who have strong cravings during the early morning.


Lozenges are placed in the mouth and dissolve slowly to release nicotine. They take about 20-30 minutes to dissolve.

Lozenges are helpful because they provide short bursts of nicotine. Lozenges should not be used by people with mouth ulcers.


An inhalator looks like a plastic cigarette. The inhalator releases nicotine vapour which gets absorbed through your mouth and throat. If you miss the ‘hand to mouth’ aspect of smoking, these may suit you.

One advantage of inhalators is that they work much more quickly than gum or lozenges. They can therefore be used directly when you experience cravings for a cigarette. They also feel very similar (because of the motion involved in using them) to a cigarette, so become a good replacement – especially for those who miss the ‘hand to mouth’ aspect of smoking.

Nicotine Nasal Spray 

The spray delivers a swift and effective dose of nicotine through the lining of your nose.

The nicotine nasal spray is the strongest form of nicotine replacement therapy. This can be a very useful and effective form of medication for highly dependent heavy smokers who have difficulty giving up using other methods.


These are small tablets containing nicotine that dissolve quickly under your tongue.

Microtabs can be used by those who are trying to reduce the number of cigarettes they smoke, as well as those who have quit completely. Some people find that microtabs are more discrete than other oral products, as no chewing or sucking is required. You should stop smoking within six months of starting on microtabs.

Available help

Your chance of successfully quitting smoking will be greatly increased if you receive expert guidance during your quit attempt.

Quit Right Tower Hamlets has extensive experience of smokers using NRT to quit. We will help you select the product, advise you on its effective use, combine it with other treatment if needed, and provide advice and support during this process.

For help call T: 020 7882 8230