HOUSTON- Whether you smoke three cigarettes or three packs of cigarettes a day, kicking the habit is difficult. Various nicotine replacement products are on the market to make quitting easier. But which product is right for you? Experts from The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center are here to help.
“Quitting smoking is a wonderful thing to do for yourself and your loved ones, but it can be really hard without help,” said Jennifer Irvin Vidrine, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Health Disparities Research at M. D. Anderson. “A great way to reduce withdrawal symptoms while you are trying to quit is to use some sort of nicotine replacement therapy.”
Quitting smoking is one of the absolute most important things you can do to improve your health. It significantly reduces your risks for cancer and other diseases, such as heart and lung disease. M. D. Anderson experts share the lowdown on nicotine replacement products.
The patch gives a steady stream of nicotine that helps cut down on the highs and lows of nicotine withdrawal. Side effects: Some people with sensitive skin can develop a skin rash when using this product. Moving it to a different spot on your body each day usually helps.
Gum is a great way to keep your mouth busy without a cigarette. It gives you small doses of nicotine when you need it. Gum and lozenges also are good for people who are habitual about when they smoke cigarettes. Side effects: The most common problem with the gum is that it is often misused. You need to chew the gum, tuck it between your cheek and gum, and let it sit for a while. If you don’t chew as directed, your body won’t get the full dose of nicotine.
Lozenges came onto the market after the gum to help people who have trouble using the gum correctly. It is great for habitual smokers to indulge in while having a cup of coffee or to soothe themselves during a stressful moment. It also is for people who aren’t thrilled about the idea of having to tuck the gum between their gum and cheek, which can leave an unsightly bulge. Side effects: Although easier to use than the gum, the lozenge can leave a film in the mouth. It also can leave users with stale breath.
The nasal spray is like many sprays you might use for a runny nose or allergies. With the gum or lozenge, what you eat or drink can affect the amount of nicotine you get. The nasal spray is a single shot of nicotine. It works faster than the gum or lozenge, and unlike the patch, it can be used exactly when your craving hits. Side effects: The nasal spray can sting the inside of your nose. It also is just one shot, so if you smoke because you like the habit, this isn’t the tool for you.
Inhalers work fast like the nasal spray and certainly faster than the gum and lozenge. Like an asthma inhaler, you put it to your mouth and breathe deeply. Like nasal spray, inhalers gives you a measured amount of nicotine the instant you need it, but, it isn’t quite as harsh as the nasal spray. Side effects: The biggest trouble with the inhaler is that it is impractical or awkward to use in real life. Using the inhaler in social situations can be awkward, if not alarming, for your company. It also is fairly bulky to carry around.
A nicotine replacement product for every personality
“You really can’t go wrong with any nicotine replacement therapy,” said Damon J. Vidrine, Dr.P.H., assistant professor in the Department of Behavioral Science at M. D. Anderson. “I recommend, however, trying the patch first. The patch delivers a steady, low-dose stream of nicotine to your system that reduces cravings.”
While you can buy the gum, lozenge and patch over-the-counter at your local drugstore or supermarket, you need a prescription from your doctor to get the inhaler or nasal spray.
Reaching your goal
“To help yourself quit, I strongly recommend a nicotine replacement product in combination with counseling,” Jennifer Vidrine said.
Although going to see a private counselor might be impossible because of time or money, there are several free smoking quit lines such as 1-800-QUIT NOW (American Cancer Society) and 1-877-44U-QUIT (National Cancer Institute).
“Your goal should be complete cessation,” Damon Vidrine said. “It shouldn’t be just to cut back. This can be difficult, but nicotine replacement products, non-nicotine medications, and counseling really do help people who want to quit.”
Read more about smoking cessation and get linked to M. D. Anderson tobacco cessation studies, some of which offer free treatment methods, at www.mdanderson.org/focused.
M. D. Anderson experts available for interview:
Jennifer Irvin Vidrine, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Health Disparities Research
Jenifer Irvin Vidrine’s research focuses on eliminating health disparities through investigating potential “windows of opportunity” for promoting health behavior change, developing and evaluating the impact of tailored health risk communications, evaluating potential mechanisms underlying changes in risk perceptions over time in the natural environment, and disseminating evidence-based tobacco cessation interventions to underserved populations. The primary emphasis of her work to date has been on tobacco.
Damon J. Vidrine, Dr.P.H., Assistant Professor, Department of Behavioral Science
Damon Vidrine’s research interests include tobacco use in special populations and the development of intervention and assessment approaches. Among his current projects is a study designed to elucidate the relationships between disease events (e.g., diagnosis, treatment failure, and disease progression) and subsequent changes in smoking behaviors, attitudes, and intentions. Additional efforts involve the development of cell phone-delivered treatments, such as counseling, interactive text messaging and use of mobile web-based applications.