Gum vs. the Patch: Which Kind of Nicotine Replacement Is Right for You?

Knowing your smoking triggers can help you target the kind of nicotine replacement therapy that will work for you.
Shopping for over-the-counter quitting aids can be a little overwhelming because there are now five distinct forms of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) to choose from, each in its own colorful array of brands. (Not to mention that nicotine gum and nicotine patches may be stowed somewhere behind the checkout counter near the cigarettes.)

But your chances of successfully quitting smoking double when you reach for the patch, gum, lozenges, the inhaler, or the spray, so it's usually worth the effort to sort through the facts about NRTs and reach for at least one.

Choosing an NRT
When used correctly, all five NRTs have about the same efficacy, according to the 2008 Clinical Practice Guideline for treating tobacco use and dependence, published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. But each method addresses a different combination of physical and psychological withdrawal.

Start by assessing your own situation. Ask yourself how many cigarettes you smoke per day and the circumstances under which you generally decide to light up. If you tend to panic at the first twinge of nicotine withdrawal, for instance, then the easy-to-grab gum may be your best option. On the other hand, if you happen to miss inhaling smoke, the inhaler might be right for you.

Talk to your doctor about how you handled any previous attempts to quit and don't forget to consider physical conditions that may interfere with a particular type of NRT (if you wear dentures, for instance, the gum won't work for you). These questions may steer you toward one NRT in particular, or they may suggest a combo.

Either way, it's your choice—because you're the one who has to make it work. "If a patient doesnt want what you give them, theyre not going to do it," says Steven A. Schroeder, MD, a distinguished professor of health and health care at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine and the head of UCSFs Smoking Cessation Leadership Center.

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Lead writer: Claire Stanford
Last Updated: August 01, 2008

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