Smoking in the UK has been in decline for many years, but there are still over 6 million smokers, many of whom would love to quit. The good news is that there are plenty of aids to quitting available.

Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)

Nicotine, although an addictive substance, is relatively harmless in the amount found in cigarettes. The damage comes from the toxic chemicals in tobacco smoke. With NRT you take nicotine in a controlled way, without the harmful chemicals.

NRT doesn’t work for everyone, but it does increase your chances of quitting by 50-75%. It comes in various forms, some of which can be bought over the counter and others only available on prescription.

 Available from Pharmacies


Nicotine gum works quickly to satisfy sudden cravings. It’s first chewed then held between cheek and gums. The nicotine is absorbed through your mouth lining. You can use the gum regularly throughout the day and gradually reduce use over a period of up to 12 weeks.

Side effects include nausea, hiccups and mouth irritation. It’s best avoided if you have false teeth. Gum is often used in conjunction with nicotine patches. 


Nicotine from lozenges is absorbed in the same way as gum. Instead of biting, you let the lozenge dissolve against the side of your mouth. Like gum, you can use them throughout the day for a 12-week period to satisfy sudden cravings. They’re also often used alongside patches. Side effects include nausea, heartburn and sore throat.


Nicotine patches are easy to use and provide relief from cravings for up to 24 hours. They deliver a steady dose of nicotine that is absorbed through your skin. You might still get sudden cravings, so they are often used with other aids, such as gum or lozenges.

Patches can irritate your skin, so it’s best to apply them in a different place each day. Some people experience disturbances to their sleep and find removing the patch at night helps.



One puff releases a small dose of nicotine vapour which is absorbed through the lining of your mouth and throat. It shouldn’t be inhaled into your lungs but kept in your mouth briefly before being exhaled.

 If this is your only aid to quitting, you’ll need to use it frequently throughout the day. It can cause coughing and irritation to the mouth and throat. 

Nasal Spray

Like other aids, nasal sprays help with sudden cravings, but they work faster. They’re also only available on prescription. Typically, they are used once or twice an hour over a 3 to 6-month period. They can irritate your nose and throat causing sneezing and coughing.


These provide nicotine in a vapour without the harmful substances found in cigarettes. They are readily available and have been shown to help people quit smoking.

Use of any of the aids mentioned in this article should be viewed as short-term with the objective being to quit altogether. For advice on what’s best for you, consult your GP or speak to a pharmacist.