It’s no secret that quitting smoking is difficult. Nicotine is very addictive.

It’s also hard to figure out how to quit in the first place. There are so many products available to help smokers quit.

So, if you’ve been trying to quit and haven’t been successful, you’re not alone. But don’t be discouraged. It’s a tough and complicated journey. There’s no magic formula that works for everyone.

The right tools and support can make you successful. A 2008 review of studies found that nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) help increase the rate of success in quitting smoking by 50 to 70 percent.

Have you heard about the nicotine inhaler?

Let’s take a closer look to understand how the inhaler works, and if it’s the right aid to help you quit.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 14 percent of adults in the United States (around 34 million people) smoked cigarettes in 2017, which is down from 21 percent in 2005.

The American Thoracic Society (ATS) strongly recommends that all people who are quitting smoking and are dependent on tobacco start with the prescription medication varenicline (Chantix).

The ATS recommends varenicline over nicotine patches and the prescription medication bupropion (Wellbutrin). Treatment should last for at least 12 weeks.

There are several other options to quit smoking, including over-the-counter (OTC) nicotine products like lozenges, patches, and gum.

There are also prescription nicotine products (nicotine inhaler and spray) as well as several app-based tools and support programs.

The nicotine inhaler is only available under the brand name Nicotrol. The device is designed to imitate the act of smoking but is much less harmful. For many people, this is a key part of why they choose the inhaler over other options.

Research shows it’s crucial to address the physical (hand to mouth, smell, and visual) aspects of smoking to help people quit. It’s not just about nicotine cravings.

Each nicotine inhaler comes as a kit. It includes a holder shaped like a cigarette and 10 milligrams (mg) of nicotine cartridges that deliver 4 mg of nicotine.

Each kit comes with one holder and 168 cartridges. How long the kit lasts depends on how many cartridges you use in a day.

Nicotrol isn’t approved for people who are younger than 18 or pregnant.

The nicotine inhaler helps you quit smoking in two main ways:

  • It simulates the act of smoking (hand to mouth) with the holder shaped like a cigarette, which some people find helpful for quitting.
  • It delivers nicotine when you puff on the device to help with cravings.

The kit has cartridges that deliver 4 mg of nicotine to the back of your throat. When you puff the device, you get the nicotine your body craves, but in lower doses. The inhaler isn’t as harmful as smoking cigarettes for your body because it doesn’t have some of the other harmful chemicals in cigarettes.

When you first start using the inhaler, start puffing on the inhaler on and off for 20 minutes. Don’t try to inhale the vapor into your lungs. Each cartridge is finished after about 20 minutes of puffing.

Depending on how much you smoke, you might need to use a cartridge every few hours when you start. Use the least amount to keep you from smoking a cigarette.

Once you open a cartridge, it’s good for one day.

Don’t eat or drink anything 15 minutes before, during, and after using the inhaler.

There are several differences between the nicotine inhaler and vaping.

One of the main differences is that the nicotine inhaler is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help smokers quit.

It’s only available by prescription from your doctor, so it’s a medically monitored way to quit smoking. Vaping isn’t an FDA-approved method to quit smoking.

The other major difference between the two devices is how they work. You don’t inhale nicotine into your lungs with the nicotine inhaler. It stays mostly in your throat and mouth. There’s no heating element or liquid nicotine.

Vaping introduces the product into your lungs when you put liquid into the device. It’s then heated and vaporized.

Here are some other differences:

  • How to purchase. E-cigarettes used for vaping are available OTC. There are more than 460 brands. They weren’t regulated by the FDA until 2016.
  • Amount of nicotine. Nicotine inhalers have an exact and stated amount of nicotine. The nicotine amount can vary in e-cigarettes by brand. Some have more nicotine than traditional cigarettes. You can also add other liquids to the devices, not just nicotine.
  • Risk of overdose. A new study found people trying to quit by using e-cigarettes used fewer cigarettes, but they used more total nicotine. They were often using both together. This can lead to nicotine overdose. People using nicotine inhalers are under the care of a doctor, so the risk of overdose may be less.

Vaping became very popular around 2005. It continues to be popular because of advertising, social media, and other ways people talk about the product.

Even though Nicotrol has been approved since 1997, it’s not advertised, so many people don’t know about it.

There have been several accidents from e-cigarette devices exploding and injuring users. Quality of the devices can vary quite a lot, too.

There’s still a lot we don’t know about the health effects of vaping. Certain chemicals are released when the device heats the liquid. These might cause harm to your body, especially if used for a long time. We just don’t know yet.

One of the biggest concerns with vaping is how popular it’s become with teens.

The CDC is concerned about health risks to young adults who vape. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, teens may try other tobacco products, including cigarettes, after trying vaping.

The average cost of Nicotrol is $420 for 168 cartridges. If you use six cartridges per day, this will last 28 days. Some insurance plans do pay for Nicotrol. Check with your plan to see if it’s covered.

The cost of a pack of cigarettes depends on federal and state taxes. The average cost is between $6 to $8 per pack. If you smoke a pack a day, this could average between $180 to $240 dollars a month. But there are much higher costs to your overall health the longer you smoke.

E-cigarette prices depend on the brand. Cost depends on whether it’s a one-time disposable one or a rechargeable brand. The cost could be anywhere from a few dollars to more than $150.

Right now, rechargeable e-cigarettes may cost less than traditional cigarettes because they’re not taxed in the same way.

The nicotine inhaler is only available as a prescription from your doctor. This is different from some of the other nicotine quit products on the market, like nicotine gum, patches, and lozenges.

E-cigarettes are also being used to stop smoking, but they’re currently not approved by the FDA for this purpose.

The advantage of the nicotine inhaler is that you can discuss your concerns with your doctor about quitting and come up with a good plan that works for you.

Your doctor can monitor how you’re doing and adjust your treatment according to how you’re responding to help you successfully quit.

As with any nicotine-containing product, the inhaler has some risks since you’re inhaling nicotine. However, the inhaler provides a much lower dose (4 mg) versus smoking a cigarette. It’s also less harmful.

Common side effects

The most common side effect with the nicotine inhaler is mouth and throat irritation when you puff the device. Other more common side effects include:

  • cough
  • hiccups
  • runny nose
  • headache
  • upset stomach

Some of these symptoms may also be from nicotine withdrawal as you reduce the amount of nicotine in your body.

You may experience other side effects not listed here. Talk to your pharmacist to learn about any other side effects.

Symptoms of Nicotine Overdose

Don’t smoke or use other nicotine products with the nicotine inhaler unless you’ve discussed it with your doctor. Too much nicotine can cause nicotine poisoning (overdose). Signs of overdose include:

  • confusion
  • dizziness
  • diarrhea
  • upset stomach
  • vomiting
  • drooling
  • cold sweat
  • weakness
  • blurred vision
  • hearing problems

Nicotine poisoning may require medical attention. Contact your doctor or call 911 if you have one or more of these symptoms.

Yes, there are benefits to using the nicotine inhaler to quit smoking over other products. Here are the main ones:

  • It’s a prescription unlike other nicotine products, which don’t require you to visit a doctor and develop a quit plan for success.
  • The device mirrors the act of smoking without the harmful effects of inhaling smoke into your lungs. Many people need this to help them quit.
  • It doesn’t have the other harmful chemicals that cigarettes or e-cigarettes do.
  • It’s been around a long time (since 1997), so there’s scientific evidence supporting use of the nicotine inhaler.
  • It might be less expensive than OTC products if it’s covered by insurance.

Healthline doesn’t promote any particular brand of NRT. It’s up to you and your doctor to find the right product and tools to help you quit smoking. The nicotine inhaler is one among a variety of NRT products available.

The nicotine inhaler might be the right choice for you to quit smoking if you’ve tried other OTC products and been unsuccessful.

Have a discussion with your doctor about your current smoking habits and what you’ve tried in the past that may or may not have helped.

Remember: Quitting smoking is different for everyone. There’s no perfect journey.

One of the keys to success is your active engagement in the process. Do it for yourself, not anyone else.

Your own path is the only one that matters. Develop a good plan with your doctor’s help, and reach out for support when you need it.

The nicotine inhaler is an FDA-approved prescription product that helps you stop smoking. It’s available under the brand name Nicotrol.

It’s not like vaping, because there’s no liquid nicotine and you don’t inhale it into your lungs.

If you choose the inhaler, your doctor can monitor your success and offer help along the way.