How does nicotine replacement therapy work?

Using nicotine replacement therapy to help you quit smoking

If you’ve tried to quit smoking before, you probably already know there’s a range of smoking cessation tools available to support you throughout your journey.

In this article, we’ll look into some of the first-line nicotine replacement therapy or NRT options that are available via Help Me Stop.

Nicotine replacement therapy can help support you quitting smoking

One of the main reasons cigarettes are highly addictive is because they contain the chemical nicotine. When you puff on a cigarette, it takes just seconds for nicotine to go from the lungs to the brain, where a feel-good chemical called dopamine is released. However when you are trying to quit and no longer have the same levels of nicotine in your system, this can cause cravings/withdrawals. 

NICORETTE® has a range of NRT’s that are approved first line treatments for smoking cessation which means they are amongst products that are recommended to be used first when trying smoking cessation products.

NRT’s can support you to quit smoking by replacing some of the nicotine you would normally get from smoking a tobacco product such as a cigarette or cigar. The nicotine delivered by these products can help manage cravings and other symptoms you may experience when you quit such as difficulty concentrating, frustration, restlessness and anxiety, all without the addition of harmful substances that are found in cigarettes. 

Different types of NRTs

NRT products deliver nicotine to the body at different rates. NRTs that are taken by mouth are generally faster acting than patches applied to skin.

Fast-acting NRTs

Faster-acting types of NRTs include nicotine gum, lozenges, inhalers and mouth sprays.  Many find fast-acting NRTs are discreet and simple to use. Their effects can be felt within a short period of time to help you overcome cravings. They can also be used in anticipation of getting cravings. Although the faster-acting types of NRT work quickly, it’s important to remember they won’t give you a nicotine hit as fast as cigarettes do. Mouth sprays and inhalers generally take about a minute before you start to feel the effects of the nicotine.

How to use fast-acting NRT

Use your NRT product as directed by your health care professional or as indicated in the instructions included with your NRT product. 

The way you use NRT products that you take by mouth is important as the nicotine they deliver is absorbed by the lining of the mouth. 

It is best to avoid eating or drinking food at the same time when you use nicotine gum,  lozenges, mouth sprays or inhalers. It’s also best to avoid acidic drinks like coffee, fruit juice, soft drinks or beer for at least 15 minutes before using these NRT products as they can affect how well these products work.

Below are some tips you may find useful when using fast-acting NRT products.

Nicotine sprays

As a general guide, aim the spray into either side of your mouth, or under your tongue and do not swallow for a few seconds after spraying. This will help ensure you absorb the nicotine from your mouth as intended.

Nicotine gum

Nicotine gum looks like regular gum, but you don’t use it in the same way you would use normal chewing gum. To use it correctly, chew the gum until the taste becomes strong, then rest the gum between your jaw and cheek. After the taste has faded, resume chewing the gum until the taste becomes strong again and repeat above.


Unlike other lozenges, you don’t chew, suck or swallow a nicotine lozenge. Instead place the lozenge in your mouth and occasionally move the lozenge from one side of your mouth to the other until the lozenge dissolves completely, which takes about 16-19 minutes.

Nicotine inhaler

The NICORETTE®  inhalator may look like a cigarette but you use it differently. Load the nicotine cartridge as instructed on the pack. When you have a craving, take a shallow puff about every 4 seconds or take 2 deep puffs every minute. Each cartridge lasts for approximately 40 minutes of frequent puffing.

Long-acting NRT 

Another other type of NRT is nicotine patches which are applied usually to the skin on the arm, shoulder or back. They deliver a steady dose of nicotine into your body over a long duration, often 12-24 hours. 

Nicotine patches

NICORETTE® 16hr INVISIPATCH® is available in three different sizes and strengths: 25mg/16hrs, 15mg/16hr, 10mg/16hr and can help reduce cravings and unwanted nicotine withdrawals across the day. They give your body a break from nicotine while you sleep and are less likely to cause skin irritation and sleep disturbances than 24 hour patches.

Combination NRT

Using short-acting NRTs such as nicotine gum, lozenges, sprays or inhalers alongside patches can combine the relief from acute cravings provided by a short-acting NRT, with the benefits that a nicotine patch provides in reducing consistent cravings and symptoms of nicotine withdrawal.

NRT safety and unwanted effects

NRTs are, in general, well tolerated by most people. It’s rare to get serious side effects from using NRTs and unwanted effects that may occur usually don’t last long. 

Known side effects for NRTs taken by mouth (e.g. gum or lozenges) can include mouth irritation, hiccups, nausea and heartburn. 

The most common side effects with patches are vivid dreams (patches can be removed prior to sleep to aid in preventing this), sleep disturbances and skin irritation where the patch is applied. These unwanted effects often reduce over time and may lessen when the nicotine strength of the patch is reduced or by using a 16 hour patch rather than a 24 hour patch .

The best time to start your quitting journey is now

Quitting smoking could arguably be one of the best things you could do for your health. It’s common for people to try to quit smoking several times before they succeed, so it’s important to keep trying.

 At Help Me Stop we are here to help. We stock a range of NRT products in our store to assist you in quitting smoking.

Always read the product information that comes with your chosen NRT product/s.

NICORETTE® gum, NICORETTE® nicotine lozenges, NICORETTE® Quick Mist mouth spray: Do not use if you are hypersensitive to any of the ingredients or if you are under 12 years of age. Ask your doctor, pharmacist, or contact Help Me Stop before use if you: are pregnant or breastfeeding, are under 18 years of age, are taking any other medicines, have uncontrolled high blood pressure, have a stomach ulcer, have kidney or liver disease, take insulin for diabetes, have an overactive thyroid or have adrenal gland cancer. Do not use unless a doctor has told you to if you have had a stroke or you have heart or circulation problems.

NICORETTE® Nicotine Patch 16 hour Invisipatch: Do not use if you are hypersensitive to any of the ingredients, are under 12 years of age, have psoriasis or dermatitis or are breastfeeding.

NICORETTE® Inhalator:  Do not use if you are hypersensitive to any of the ingredients or if you are under 12 years of age. Do not use unless a doctor has told you to if you have had a stroke or you have heart or circulation problems.

DISCLAIMER: There are a number of ways to quit smoking. We have a range of tools that may help with smoking cessation such as nicotine patches, gums and vaping products. Vaping products, used as second-line tools may be useful for those who have not successfully quit smoking using traditional methods.  

It’s important to acknowledge there’s limited available evidence on the efficacy, safety or long-term health effects of nicotine vaping products. There are potential side effects associated with vaping. Long-term vaping and dual-use (smoking and vaping concurrently) is not recommended and should be avoided.  Regular review and monitoring by your regular GP is advised along your smoking cessation journey.

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