broken cigarette being held next to lady's arm with smoking patch

Stop smoking aids

Man holding cigarette snapped in half

Quitting aids can help you stop smoking and manage nicotine withdrawal cravings.

Quitting aids and treatments are easy to buy from shops, pharmacies and on prescription to help you quit smoking. These reduce withdrawal symptoms and keep your mind off smoking.

Evidence shows quitting aids are most effective if used alongside support from a friendly local stop smoking service. You can also use more than one – ask your pharmacist for advice.

The different stop smoking aids include:

  • nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs), such as patches, sprays, gum and lozenges
  • nicotine vapes (e-cigarettes)
  • prescription-only medicines (tablets)
Man sticking a white nicotine patch on his arm

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT)

Most people smoke because they are addicted to nicotine. This can make you feel stressed if you haven’t had a cigarette in a while. NRT is a medication that gives you enough nicotine to keep cravings away. The good thing about NRT is that it doesn’t contain the poisons in tobacco smoke like tar.

NRT can be bought from pharmacies, some shops and can be available on prescription from a doctor or NHS stop smoking service.  It’s available as:

  • skin patches – these release nicotine slowly. Some are worn all the time and should be taken off at night.
  • nicotine chewing gum
  • inhalators (which look like plastic cigarettes)
  • tablets, oral strips and lozenges
  • nasal and mouth spray

Inhalators, gum and sprays act more quickly and may be better if feel you need more nicotine. Often the best way to use NRT is to combine a patch with a faster acting form such as gum, inhalator or nasal spray.

Treatment with NRT usually lasts 8-12 weeks, before you gradually reduce the dose and eventually stop. But some people use NRT much longer – the main thing is not smoking tobacco!

Dr Ruth smiling in blue scrubs

Prescription-only medicines

There are 2 prescription-only stop smoking medicines, which are in tablet form:

  • varenicline (brand name Champix)
  • bupropion (brand name Zyban)

These medicines do not contain nicotine, but they can help with withdrawal symptoms.

If recommended by a doctor or a stop smoking adviser, they can be taken together with nicotine replacement products.

Only bupropion is available in the UK at this time. Varenicline is currently unavailable due to supply issues.

Speak to a doctor or stop smoking adviser about availability or an alternative treatment.


Nicotine vaping is one of the most effective tools for quitting smoking and substantially less harmful than smoking tobacco.

Costs of e-cigarettes can vary, but generally they’re much cheaper than cigarettes.

Vaping is not recommended for non-smokers and young people because it is not completely harmless. But if you are a tobacco smoker considering switching it could be right for you and will almost certainly reduce your risks of cancer, COPD and a range of smoking-caused diseases.

E-cigarettes are most effective if used with support from an NHS stop smoking service.

Visit our page on vaping for all your question answered