Can FDA-approved products help you stop smoking?

The nicotine in cigarettes is highly addictive so withdrawal can be hard. That’s where smoking cessation products including NRT (nicotine replacement therapy) comes in.

Quitting smoking is as much physical as it is mental. Due to the highly addictive nature of nicotine, it’s often the strong withdrawal symptoms that cause people to give in and pick up a cigarette again. Statistics show that most people do not succeed the first time they try to quit. In fact, smokers usually try multiple times before they’re able to quit for good.

So what can you do? According to FDA data, using FDA-approved cessation medicine can double your chance of quitting successfully.

What are smoking cessation products? And are they safe?

Smoking cessation products are intended to help you quit smoking. They are regulated through the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, which ensures that the products are safe and effective and that their benefits outweigh any known associated risks.

Nicotine replacement therapy products.

NRT (nicotine replacement therapy) products contain regulated doses of nicotine that decrease over time to help combat withdrawal symptoms. Because these products address only the physical challenges of quitting, they need to be combined with ways of handling the psychological (emotional and mental) aspect of quitting.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved 5 forms of NRT products:

  • Patch

  • Gum (nicotine polacrilex)

  • Nasal spray (available by prescription only)

  • Inhalers (available by prescription only)

  • Lozenges

In addition, there are two stop-smoking medicines - bupropion (Zyban) and varenicline (Chantix) – which do not contain nicotine and are available by prescription only.

How do you know what’s right for you?

NRT products are designed to help people who are severely dependent on nicotine so first you must determine if you meet the criteria. Do you smoke more than one pack a day? Smoke within 5 minutes of waking up? Smoke even while sick? If you answered yes, you can consider NRT.

Next, have a talk with your doctor and pharmacist. Do some research and read the labels of products you’re interested in trying. It’s important to understand how each form works and what side effects you may experience. If you have any history of heart problems, high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma or stomach ulcers, you may be told to avoid certain products.

After you understand the risks, consider your lifestyle and the amount of control you want.

  • A patch works all day and delivers a time-release dose of nicotine. It’s discreet and easy to apply. Because patches are part of a 3-step program, you may need to use them for several months.

  • Gum is fast-acting and gives you an instant way to control your cravings. You can chew it as needed or on a fixed schedule. 

  • Nasal spray is available by prescription only. Cravings are relieved quickly because the spray is absorbed into the blood stream through the nose. It’s typically prescribed for 3-month periods and can’t be used for longer than 6 months.

  • Inhalers are available by prescription only. It delivers nicotine vapor to the mouth where it’s absorbed into the bloodstream. Many find it’s the method that’s most like smoking a cigarette.

  • Lozenges let you control the dosage of nicotine and give you an instant way to combat your craving. They also provide a mouth feel that many people like.  

It’s not forever. Stop-smoking aids should only be used for a limited time.

It’s important to remember that NRT products as well as prescription bupropion and varenicline are intended to be used for a limited time. Your dosage and use should gradually decrease until you are nicotine-free. Your doctor or healthcare provider can help you develop a step-down program that works for you.