Where can you get cheap nicotine replacement therapy?

One of the main reasons motivating smokers to quit is money. A pack a day smoker in my home state of New Jersey who is purchasing his or her cigarettes on a daily basis is likely paying around $8 per pack. That’s $56 per week, $243 per month, or just under $3,000 per year.

So it clearly makes sense to quit for health and financial reasons. But as I’ve discussed on this site previously, your best chance of successfully quitting will be to get counseling support and to use at least one FDA-approved smoking cessation medicine. If you don’t want to have to go to the doctor for a prescription, your choices will be limited to the “Over-The-Counter” products: nicotine patch, gum or lozenge. When you go to a local pharmacy you will often find that the sticker price for a branded box of NRT, which typically last around 2 weeks (e.g. a 14-day supply of nicotine patches) is around $50, and possibly slightly higher. That sticker shock can put some people off. So are there less expensive ways of obtaining NRT?

One thing you should be aware of, is that all the major pharmaceutical manufacturers have programs that enable them to supply free medicines to people on very low incomes and no other way to pay (e.g. insurance). You can find out about these via the companies website. It typically involves completing a reasonable amount of paperwork, supplying some verification of financial situation, and I think requires a doctors office to ship it to. But it does work, and is a way for people on a very low income to get the medicines they need.

If you are fortunate enough to live in a state with a good/comprehensive tobacco control program, it is possible that the smoking cessation services can provide free or low cost medicine (e.g. free nicotine patches via the quitline or face-to-face counseling services). In some states, people covered by Medicaid can get their medicines covered. Similarly some private insurance policies cover the medicines. Some cover them all, and some just cover the prescription-only products (nicotine inhaler, nasal spray, and bupropion or varenicline). So if you have insurance, call your policy number and inquire about what is covered.

But if you are going to have to go to the pharmacy and purchase your own NRT, there are still some bargains to be had out there. Many pharmacies have vouchers giving $5 or $10 off branded NRTs. The other thing to do is to get an idea of what is available is to go to the online store of one of the leading chains and see what they have. I just went on the Walmart website and typed on the search words “smoking cessation”, and among the 91 “hits” were some interesting options. Among the best value were:
1. A box of 170 pieces of 4mg original flavor nicotine gum “Equate” for $30, which can be shipped to my home for 97cents.
2. A box of 20 pieces of 4mg Mint flavor “Equate” nicotine gum was only $8! That truly equated one for one with the cost for cigarettes!
3. 14 day supply of Equate 21mg nicotine patches for $26.
So if you were a heavy smoker and wanted to combine the nicotine patch with 4mg gum, an adequate 2-week supply would cost $56. That’s still half as expensive as buying a pack of cigarettes per day for 2 weeks in New Jersey.

There were numerous other options of brands, flavors and prices available on that site. I was a bit surprised to find that a form of e-cigarette also came up on my search. I did not realize until recently that Walmart were selling e-cigarettes and I think it is inappropriate for them to be sold as “smoking cessation aid” when they are not approved by FDA for that purpose. Interestingly, however, the user feedback in response to a question was quite positive.
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About the Author

MA, MAppSci, PhD

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