How long should you use nicotine replacement?
Then, assuming you quit for a month, there’s the question of how long to keep taking nicotine replacement medication. With regards to the patch on its own, I don’t see much evidence in the scientific literature to suggest that using the patch for longer than the label suggests (typically around 10 weeks) has any useful relapse prevention effect. Part of the reason for this is that the patch is not something you can take in response to a cue induced craving, or a bad mood (withdrawal?). You put it on first thing in the morning and then it’s a passive nicotine delivery system. The other NRTs, however, have the potential for acute use as a “rescue” medication. That is, when someone who has been quit for, say, 16 weeks, finds themselves at a wedding, having a drink, and chatting to someone who is smoking, they will likely experience a resurgence of craving for a cigarette. In that situation, if the person had been using 4mg nicotine gum, it is likely that use of the gum would decrease the chances of them having a lapse smoke. So even though most NRTs are intended for use for less than 12 weeks, I recommend that ex-smokers keep using them until they have 14 consecutive days with no withdrawal symptoms, cravings or near lapses. And even once you have reduced NRT consumption down to very low levels it is a good idea to keep your favored product handy for months. It is much better to relapse back to NRT than cigarettes.
So the answer to the question is, “as long as it takes.”