*2022 Update - Now you can quit smoking with the New SMOKO VAPE POD!
Products and aids to help you quit smoking are known as smoking cessation aids. They come in a variety of forms, and are designed to deliver nicotine into the body in an effort to subdue withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings when quitting smoking.
BENEFITS OF QUITTING SMOKING
There are lots of benefits to giving up tobacco, firstly the elimination of all the harmful chemicals that are found in tobacco, over 60 of which are known to cause cancer. When you burn tobacco, you create carbon monoxide which is also inhaled - and this sticks to your red blood cells, preventing them from carrying oxygen. Here is an informative article that explains what cigarettes are doing to your body.
If you quit smoking, your body will start to clear out the rubbish from your lungs, the new blood cells produced won’t be ruined by carbon monoxide and so will deliver oxygen more efficiently. The reduced pressure on the vascular system should also reduce arteriosclerosis, and blood pressure should also return to a healthy level.
PRODUCTS AND AIDS TO HELP YOU QUIT SMOKING
As nicotine is a highly addictive substance, many different products to tackle cravings have been designed; each works a little differently, and often have different nicotine concentrations contained within. The oral delivery systems include nicotine gum, lozenges, pills and dissolving strips. Other nicotine replacement products include skin patches, sprays - some designed to be used in the mouth, some are nasal sprays - so read the label carefully! Understanding the nicotine replacement therapies on the market should help you make the best choice for you.
NICOTINE CHEWING GUM
Nicotine gum is available in two strengths here in the UK: 2mg and 4mg. The rough suggestion is that heavy smokers (more than 20 cigarettes a day) should use the 4mg, light smokers (less than 20 cigarettes a day) should use the 2mg strength. The gum should be chewed until soft and the flavour is strong, then rested between gum and cheek as the nicotine is absorbed - this should feel like a hot sensation. As that sensation disappears, the gum can be chewed again.
This process is repeated for about 30 minutes, then the gum is discarded.
This process is repeated for about 30 minutes, then the gum is discarded.
Users can use two pieces at a time for a particularly bad craving, and shouldn’t eat or drink for 15 mins before (or during) chewing, and while gum can and should be used to address cravings when they occur, it is suggested to use gum every one to two hours.
The advantages of the gum include keeping your mouth occupied, which can be useful for those trying to kick the smoking habit. It’s easy to use, easy to store, easy to carry when you’re out and about.
The disadvantage of using the gum is that it takes approximately 30 minutes to reach the maximum blood nicotine concentration it is capable of. This is maybe a little slow for immediate cravings, so users are likely to have their willpower tested, or they need to predict triggers so they start chewing gum about 20 minutes before they happen.
The limited strengths available may also be a disadvantage - you can double up and use two pieces if necessary, but with only 2 strengths available to buy, you are still limited in terms of controlling the nicotine dose. Watch out for irritation of the mouth and/or throat, chronic stomach issues, irregular heartbeat or heart palpitations - in addition to nicotine overdose symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, dizziness and diarrhoea.
Nicotine lozenges function similarly to nicotine gum, just without the chewing! Lozenges should be parked between the gum and cheek - not chewed or sucked - much like a nicotine pouch. Nicotine will be absorbed as it dissolves. One lozenge can be used every 1-2 hours, and should not be swallowed. The nicotine will not be absorbed if the lozenge is swallowed, and it may well cause stomach upset!
The lozenge is capable of getting the blood nicotine levels up to a decent level, however it achieves this quite slowly, at about 90 mins after use. This means that when the lozenge is consumed, nicotine cravings could be sufficiently sated for around 3 hours, depending on the person.
It will take some time to satisfy a craving - much like the gum it takes about 20 minutes to start working - so trying to anticipate triggers and cravings so you can take the lozenge beforehand may help, and hopefully the nicotine will kick in before the craving rears its ugly head.
NICOTINE SKIN PATCHES
Nicotine patches are another form of nicotine replacement therapy that release nicotine through the skin over a period of time. The patches come in two durations over which nicotine is released - 16 hours and 24 hours. The different timed patches also come in different strengths - the 16 hour patch comes in 25mg, 15mg and 10mg; where the 24 hour patch comes in 21mg, 14mg and 7 mg.
It is suggested that smokers that have a cigarette within 30 minutes of waking use the 24 hour patch, and the 16 hour patch for those who smoke after 30 minutes of waking. If you wake up in the night to smoke, the 24 hour patch is the one for you.
As the nicotine is being absorbed transdermaly (through the skin), it builds up in the blood slowly, so applying upon waking is the best way to make sure your nicotine levels are building by the time you would normally have a cigarette.
With nicotine patches, it is recommended for use for maximum 5 months, though continued use is recommended over smoking. Quite often, smokers will start on the stronger patch and reduce the strength after 4 weeks. Alongside the usual symptoms of nicotine overdose - nausea, vomiting, dizziness, headache, abnormal heart rate - other possible side effects from patches include skin irritation, sleep problems or unusual dreams and muscle aches and stiffness.
A nicotine inhalator is used orally, taking short, shallow puffs, and should be used for 60 to 80 puffs a session. The nicotine from the inhalator is then absorbed in the mouth and throat. The inhalator provides a nicotine hit very close to that of a cigarette, with blood nicotine levels peaking about 10 minutes after use, and halving every 40 minutes thereafter. This means it will be effective at tackling cravings quickly, and when used in conjunction with another stop smoking aid that releases nicotine slowly or builds the nicotine levels over time - like a nicotine patch - should increase the chances of becoming smoke free.
Those choosing to use an inhalator should bear in mind that acidic drinks can reduce nicotine absorption, so they shouldn’t be consumed 15 minutes prior to using, and eating or drinking during use will also reduce the amount of nicotine absorbed, so best to be avoided.
Side effects from the inhalator can include: headache, nausea, mouth/tooth/throat pain, coughing, runny nose, change in taste, heartburn, hiccups, sweating and diarrhoea.
Nicotine sprays are available in oral or nasal forms, and deliver doses of nicotine by spraying a nicotine solution that is absorbed through the lining of the mouth, or the blood vessels of the nasal passage. It is available in 1mg strength, and should not be used more than 4 times an hour - never using more than 2 sprays in one dose - and never more than 64 sprays in a 24 hour period.
Common side effects from the nasal spray include sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes and coughing, and most people experience some of these upon first use, with continued use seeing a reduction in these symptoms. The oral spray common side effects include headache, a burning sensation, hiccups, throat irritation and nausea - though these are likely to decline after the first 2-3 weeks of use.
PRESCRIPTION PATCHES AND OTHER DRUGS
It is always a sensible idea to seek medical advice when trying to quit tobacco - a doctor can help work through the different nicotine replacements with you to find which could be the most effective for you. There are also options a doctor can provide that aren’t available over the counter.
Your doctor could prescribe nicotine patches for you, and while these do not differ in terms of how they are used or the strength available, it may cost you the price of a prescription instead of the normal retail price.
There are also drugs available that a doctor can prescribe to help smokers quit. Varenicline is one such drug - it occupies the receptors that nicotine acts on, releasing less dopamine compared to when nicotine activates them. It appears that it reduces cravings and blocks the rewarding effects of smoking. Up to two tablets are taken daily, and a course normally lasts for 12 weeks.
Bupropion is another drug available on the NHS, but it is less clear how it works. It is thought to affect areas of the brain involved in addictive behaviour. A maximum of 2 tablets are taken daily, with a course lasting from 7 to 9 weeks.
Both of these drugs include insomnia, headaches, dizziness, constipation, nausea and dry mouth as possible side effects.
E-CIGARETTES AND VAPES
The newest ‘kid on the block’, e-cigarettes and vaping are proving to be an effective form of nicotine replacement. One study showed that when used in conjunction with behavioural support, e-cigarettes are almost twice as effective as a stop smoking method compared with other forms of NRT.
The idea is that these devices are used much like a cigarette would be, but instead of all the harmful chemicals from tobacco smoke, a mixture of propylene glycol, vegetable glycerine, nicotine and flavourings are heated into an aerosol, which is then inhaled into the lungs where the nicotine is absorbed.
Possible side effects from vaping can include coughing, dry mouth, sore throat, headache, dry eyes and nausea.
WHICH NICOTINE REPLACEMENT IS BETTER?
Of all the options available, some methods will work better for some than others, but the combination of Varenicline and vaping appears to be the most effective form of official nicotine replacement therapies. It is suggested that quitting success is more likely to be achieved with more than one form of NRT being used in tandem, often complementary forms i.e. one fast acting and one slow, like the inhalator coupled with transdermal patches.
Choosing the right one for you is the challenge, and a discussion with a medical professional is likely to set you on the right path. When you have a craving, do you need to occupy your hands, or do you experience it all internally? You probably became addicted to nicotine through smoking, and many quitters like to keep their hands busy, so a form of NRT that involves a hand to mouth action may be more suitable. If this is not the case for you, slapping on a patch in the morning and taking a couple of tablets daily may help keep your mind off smoking.
New evidence indicates that E-Cigarettes could be up to twice as effective as these forms of nicotine replacement therapy - so if you haven't considered an E-Cigarette, you should!
TIPS TO HELP YOU QUIT SMOKING
The stop smoking resources do not begin and end with nicotine replacement therapy - there are numerous smartphone apps that provide tips, craving logs, achievement tracking for health and money, and even little games to keep you occupied! Many of these achievements can be tracked on a spreadsheet, of course, but having a handy quitting companion on your phone that requires no set-up is the definition of convenience!
You can also find blogs and forums online filled with people who are going through, or have been through, the quitting experience. From answers to your questions, to support from others who know how you’re feeling, as well as other tips and tricks - the resources online are numerous and could help you in a variety of ways. Don’t be afraid to get involved!
PRODUCTS AND AIDS TO HELP YOU QUIT SMOKING CONCLUSION
The damaging effects of smoking are well known to us all. It is no surprise, then, that so many products and aids have been invented to help smokers quit. We would do well to remember that the help doesn’t stop at the nicotine delivery systems mentioned in this article - support is available in many forms, and tracking your achievements is a great way to keep up momentum in the more challenging times.
E-Cigarettes are also proving to be useful as a smoking cessation method, so if you think that quitting using a device that replicates smoking but without all the harmful chemicals, that keeps your hands occupied, is a lot cheaper than smoking, and is available in a variety of tasty flavours, give SMOKO a call today and we can get you started on your path to a healthier, wealthier you with one of our E-Cigarette or Vape starter kit deals!
*2022 Update - Now you can get a FREE SMOKO E-Cigarette when you buy a box of E-Cigarette refills! (One per customer)