Path to a Smoke-Free Life: Quit Smoking with FDA-Approved Aids


Smoking significantly increases the risk of lung cancer, cardiovascular diseases, strokes, coronary heart disease, and chronic lung conditions. Despite these dangers, many find it difficult to quit. Fortunately, over-the-counter smoking cessation aids can help individuals combat nicotine addiction. Studies indicate that using FDA-approved cessation aids can double the success rate of quitting smoking.

Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)

Nicotine is the main addictive substance in tobacco. When smokers try to quit, their bodies crave the nicotine they’re accustomed to, leading to withdrawal symptoms like sleep disturbances, irritability, and anxiety. This often drives them back to cigarettes to satisfy their nicotine needs.

Smoking cessation aids, such as nicotine patches or gum, provide the body with nicotine without smoking. They gradually reduce nicotine intake, helping smokers quit. This method is called “Nicotine Replacement Therapy” (NRT).

In the U.S., the FDA has approved several NRT products, available both over-the-counter and by prescription.

Over-the-counter NRT products

In the U.S., over-the-counter NRT products such as nicotine patches, gum, and lozenges are available for those 18 years and older. Brands like NicoDerm CQ (for patches) and Nicorette (for gum) are particularly recommended by American pharmacists for their effectiveness in helping people quit smoking.

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Prescription NRT products

In the U.S., the only prescription nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) product is Nicotrol, which is available as a nasal spray and an oral inhaler. It’s designed exclusively for adult use. Nicotrol offers a regulated dose of nicotine to help manage withdrawal symptoms. Since nicotine in cigarettes is addictive, quitting can lead to cravings, irritability, and tension.

You can use the Nicotrol Inhaler whenever you feel the urge to smoke. For the initial 3 to 6 weeks, it’s common to use at least 6 cartridges daily, but always follow your doctor’s advice.

Ensure you don’t use more than 16 cartridges in a single day. Stick with this regimen until you’ve completely stopped smoking and have determined the best dosage and routine for you. After about 3 months, your doctor will guide you in gradually decreasing the dosage, with the goal of you not smoking and eventually not needing nicotine replacement.

It’s vital that you quit smoking altogether when using Nicotrol products. If you stop using the medication suddenly, you might experience withdrawal symptoms. To avoid this, your doctor might gradually decrease your dose. If you’ve been using nicotine for a long time, or in high doses, and still haven’t quit after 4 weeks, notify your doctor.

Remember, many smokers don’t quit on their first try. If this happens, you might need to pause using the product and make another attempt later.

FDA Recommendations on NRT

According to the FDA, pregnant or breastfeeding women should only use NRT products with a doctor’s approval. Additionally, individuals with the following health conditions should consult a doctor before using NRT products:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Asthma or gastric ulcers
  • Recent heart attack
  • Untreated high blood pressure
  • Arrhythmia
  • Taking medication for depression
  • Taking other prescription smoking cessation aids

If you experience the following symptoms while using NRT medication, stop using it immediately and seek medical attention:

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Vomiting
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Inability to use lozenges or gum due to oral issues
  • Skin swelling caused by patches that does not easily subside

Smokeless placebo inhaler

Besides nicotine patches and gum, the placebo inhaler is another popular choice for quitting smoking. It replicates the sensation of smoking without containing nicotine, ensuring it’s non-addictive.

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Prescription nicotine-free smoking aids

There are two FDA-approved prescription smoking cessation medications:

Chantix (Varenicline Tartrate)

  • Manufactured by Pfizer
  • Chantix acts on the smoker’s brain to reduce the need for nicotine and diminish the pleasure of smoking, thus aiding in smoking cessation.
  • Common side effects include nausea, vomiting, constipation, and vivid dreams.
  • Not recommended for individuals under 18 years of age.

Zyban (Bupropion Hydrochloride)

  • Manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline
  • The exact mechanism of Zyban for smoking cessation is not entirely understood.
  • Common side effects include dry mouth and insomnia.
  • Not approved for use in children and adolescents.

Can e-cigarettes help quit smoking?

Electronic cigarettes are not a scientifically proven and effective method.

Electronic cigarettes, commonly known as e-cigarettes or vapes, are devices that heat a liquid to produce an aerosol, simulating the experience of smoking. This liquid often contains nicotine, which can be inhaled by bystanders when the aerosol is released.

E-cigarettes come in various shapes and sizes, with some resembling traditional tobacco products like cigarettes or cigars, and others looking like everyday items such as pens or USB drives.

Video: Harm of Electronic Cigarettes by MD Anderson. The M. D. Anderson Cancer Center is a renowned cancer treatment and research center located in Houston, Texas, USA.

Beyond nicotine, e-cigarette aerosols can also include harmful substances such as heavy metals and carcinogens. Regular or intense exposure to these elements can cause respiratory issues, and there’s growing evidence that prolonged e-cigarette use can damage the lungs.

There are also safety concerns with e-cigarettes: their internal batteries can explode, especially while charging.

As for their role in quitting smoking, some people use e-cigarettes as a cessation aid. However, research suggests most end up using both e-cigarettes and traditional cigarettes, a pattern known as “dual use.”

Given these risks, we advise against using e-cigarettes, especially for non-smokers, adolescents, and pregnant women. If you choose to use them, purchase from trusted sources and avoid making unauthorized modifications.

FDA: Every Try Counts & QuitGuide App

“Every Try Counts” is a campaign launched by the FDA to motivate adults who’ve tried quitting smoking without success to try again. The campaign emphasizes that quitting is a continuous journey, and each attempt brings one closer to success.

To spread its message, the FDA uses various channels, including advertisements, social media, and printed materials, especially near places where tobacco is sold. Moreover, the campaign provides a suite of tools and resources. These help smokers recognize the benefits of quitting, offer strategies for cessation, and guide them through the challenges of giving up smoking.

Every Try Counts

QuitGuide is a complimentary app endorsed by the “Every Try Counts” campaign. Created by in partnership with the National Cancer Institute’s Tobacco Control Research Branch, the app assists smokers in recognizing their habits and equipping them with the tools to quit successfully. Users can monitor their cravings within the app and receive motivational messages each time they log one.

QuitGuide’s core features include:

  • Tracking cravings and slips by time and location
  • Recording and tracking moods and triggers for smoking
  • Receiving motivational messages to stay on track
  • Identifying personal reasons for quitting smoking
  • Obtaining advice and techniques for dealing with cravings and bad moods
  • Monitoring progress toward personal smoke-free goals
  • Creating journal entries to record the quitting journey

Note that while QuitGuide can be downloaded on multiple platforms, its advanced features are currently available only to Apple users.

Angela Liu

Love reading, love running, love binge-watching shows, love vegetarian food.

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