Nicotine patches are an easy and well-established way to kick the habit.

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If you’re looking to quit smoking, nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) can be a helpful tool. It works by reducing your cravings and easing withdrawal symptoms through the controlled delivery of nicotine.

There are many NRT options to consider. One of the most popular and well-known methods is the nicotine patch. It’s a simple, well-established, and convenient way to kick the habit, especially when paired with another NRT, such as nicotine gum or lozenges.

Nicotine patches are widely recognized as effective for smoking cessation, but individual success may vary depending on factors like motivation, commitment, and overall support for quitting smoking.

The nicotine patch first became available over the counter in 1996. Two years after its release, a study investigated the effectiveness of a 30-milligram (mg) nicotine patch in helping smokers quit over 6 weeks.

Overall, 63% of the nicotine patch group successfully quit smoking compared with 34% of the placebo group. In addition, the nicotine patch group showed reduced nicotine dependence and withdrawal symptoms than the placebo group.

One year later, 30% of the nicotine patch group remained abstinent compared with 9% of the placebo group. Researchers concluded that the nicotine patch is an effective aid in smoking cessation programs with minimal side effects.

A 2018 review of 133 studies that included 64,640 participants compared different forms of NRT to inactive treatments. Results showed that using any form of NRT increased the chances of quitting smoking compared with not using any treatment.

Researchers found that people using the nicotine patch were 1.64 times more likely to successfully quit smoking than people in a control group.

According to the review, the patch was generally safe to use, although some people experienced mild side effects, like skin irritation. Overall, the findings suggest that the nicotine patch is a useful tool for people trying to quit smoking.

A smaller but more recent study in 2021 also found that daily use of the nicotine patch (or a combination of the patch and nicotine gum) resulted in a lower risk of daily smoking for participants.

How does the patch compare to other NRTs and medication?

The nicotine patch demonstrates comparable effectiveness compared to other NRTs such as gum, lozenges, sprays, and inhalers.

Overall, controlled clinical trials have shown that NRTs increase smoking cessation rates by approximately 50–60% compared with placebo at 1-year follow-up. However, the real-world effectiveness of NRT tends to be lower.

Another randomized controlled trial compared the effectiveness and safety of the nicotine patch, varenicline (Chantix), and bupropion (Zyban) among 8,000 smokers motivated to quit.

Findings suggest that all three methods were more effective than the placebo, but varenicline was more effective than the nicotine patch and bupropion.

Overall, varenicline, bupropion, and nicotine patches were safe and effective smoking cessation options.

For maximum effectiveness, it’s generally recommended to use a combination of two nicotine replacement products, like the patch and a short-acting NRT, such as the lozenge or gum.

Are nicotine patches effective for quitting vaping or chewing tobacco?

Since vaping and chewing tobacco involve nicotine addiction, the nicotine patch can also help people quit using these products. The patch provides a controlled dose of nicotine to alleviate cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

Here are some potential side effects of nicotine patches:

The best place to put on a nicotine patch to ensure it stays in place is typically on a clean, dry, and hairless area of skin.

Commonly recommended locations include the:

  • upper arm
  • chest
  • back
  • hip

It’s important to rotate the placement site with each new patch to avoid skin irritation.

In addition, ensuring that the chosen area is free from oils, lotions, or hair can help improve adhesion and prevent the patch from falling off.

In general, NRT is used until you feel successfully stabilized not smoking. However, you can use the patch for a longer period. In some cases, you may use it indefinitely, as NRT is considered safer than continuing to smoke.

For instance, people with coexisting mental health conditions or substance use disorders may benefit from using NRT for an extended period.

A 2010 trial involving 568 smokers found that longer use of nicotine patch therapy (24 weeks) resulted in higher rates of abstinence at 24 weeks than a shorter treatment duration (8 weeks).

In another trial from 2015 involving 525 smokers who received both counseling and nicotine patches, using the patches for 24 or 52 weeks instead of 8 weeks led to better abstinence rates at 24 weeks, but no significant differences were observed at 52 weeks.

These findings suggest that longer use of nicotine patch therapy, specifically 24 weeks, may be more effective in achieving short-term abstinence than an 8-week duration.

Other ways to quit smoking

Here are some other methods to quit smoking:

  • Behavioral counseling: Seek support from trained professionals who can provide guidance and strategies for quitting.
  • Medications: Explore prescription medications, like varenicline or bupropion, which can help reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
  • Nicotine gum or lozenges: Use these over-the-counter products that deliver nicotine to help manage cravings.
  • Nicotine nasal spray or inhaler: Consider these NRT options for fast-acting relief.
  • Mindfulness and stress-reduction techniques: Practice techniques like meditation, deep breathing, or yoga to manage cravings and reduce stress.

Check out this article for more tips on how to quit smoking for good.

Was this helpful?

The nicotine patch is one of the most popular and well-established methods for quitting smoking. It’s a simple and convenient way to kick the habit, especially when used with another NRT, such as nicotine lozenges or gum.

The patch has a slow onset that may take several hours to reach peak levels, but once it kicks in, it provides continuous delivery of nicotine to relieve withdrawal symptoms over 24 hours.

It’s important to use the patch until you feel stabilized as a nonsmoker, which can be 24 weeks or longer.

Additionally, counseling and medication can significantly enhance your chances of quitting when used with the patch. It’s a good idea to stay open to trying different methods so you can find the one that works best for you.