Are you a long-term nicotine gum user?

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Nicotine gum was the first nicotine replacement therapy to be launched and has been available for over 20 years. Over that time millions of people worldwide have used nicotine gum to try to quit smoking. Overall when it is bought from the pharmacy over-the-counter, less than 5 % become long-term users (typically defined as still using the product 6 months after starting it). But because a great many smokers have quit smoking with the help of nicotine gum, there is a growing population of “long term users.” So although long-term use of nicotine gum is unusual, it is not rare. So how should long-term nicotine gum be perceived? Is it a nasty addictive behavior or is it a big step in the right direction, relative to smoking?

Despite occasional reports in the media, there is no solid evidence that nicotine causes cancer in humans. This issue has been addressed in a bit more detail in a previous post:

Does nicotine replacement therapy cause cancer? Aug 24, 2009.
http://www.healthline.com/blogs/smoking_cessation/2009/08/does-nicotine-replacement-therapy-cause.html

To me, in the absence of evidence of serious harm to health from long term nicotine use, it is primarily a question for the user. If they would rather stop using the NRT, and are only using it because they feel addicted to it, then its time to focus on helping them to stop using. If they are quite content to use NRT, and are not experiencing any negative effects from it, or feel that it is continuing to help them stay off tobacco, then I see no reason to rush to stop using it. Its clearly far better to be chewing nicotine gum than smoking cigarettes.

Some long term gum users say they enjoy it, that it helps them focus their mental concentration when they need to, and so they continue using it recreationally. I don’t see a massive problem with that.

I’ve known some long-term gum users who quit by gradually substituting sugar-free (and nicotine free) gum. Ive known some who temporarily used the nicotine patch while weaning off the gum. The vast majority say it was far easier stopping using nicotine gum than stopping cigarettes.

So if you are a long term nicotine gum user who is tired of using it, pick a Quit Day in the future (next month or so), and start reducing your gum consumption by cutting in half each week until that day when you quit. If you are troubled by cravings and other nicotine withdrawal symptoms, then it may be reasonable to use a nicotine patch for a few weeks while she comes off the gum and replace it with sugar-free gum.

I’d love to hear the experiences of long term nicotine gum users, and these who tried to quit nicotine gum.
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About the Author


MA, MAppSci, PhD

Dr. Jonathan Foulds is an expert in the field of tobacco addiction.

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