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Part 3 of our 4 pt Smoking Cessation series looks at over the counter and prescription options that can assist you in giving up for good

Posted by Eamonn Brady on

Smoking Cessation Part 3: Treatment

To help give up, there are many treatment options available both over the counter in pharmacy or on prescription.

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT)

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) works by releasing nicotine steadily into the bloodstream at much lower levels than in a cigarette, without the tar, carbon monoxide and other poisonous chemicals found in tobacco smoke. This helps to control the cravings for a cigarette that occur when the body starts to miss the nicotine that smoking provides. The dose depends on the number of cigarettes smoked, intensity and pattern of habit.

NRT is the most common smoking cessation treatment. The National Institute of Clinical Evidence in the UK (NICE, 2018) recommends a long- acting product (e.g., a patch) and a short-acting product of which there are many varieties; these provide a dose of nicotine to help cravings. Most are absorbed sublingually (e.g., vaping, gum, spray, or inhalator). The dose is usually titrated down over a 12-week period, however heavy smokers may need longer. 

Types include

  • Transdermal patches (which stick to the skin) and which are available in formulations that release nicotine for either 16 hours or 24 hours.
  • Chewing gum that is available with either 2mg or 4mg of nicotine.
  • Inhalators which look like a plastic cigarette and through which nicotine is inhaled
  • Tablets and lozenges which are placed under the tongue.

With a medical card, they are available for free once prescribed by a GP.
If pregnant or breast-feeding, it is best for the health of mother and baby, to stop completely and immediately, without the help of any smoking cessation treatment.

Side effects of NRT if the occur are generally mild and can include:

  • Skin irritation from patches
  • Irritation of the nose, throat or eyes when using nasal spray
  • Insomnia and vivid dreams
  • Upset stomach
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches



Electronic cigarettes (E-cigarettes) are electronic devices that mimic cigarettes and release nicotine vapour. They allow inhalation of nicotine without the negative effects of tar and carbon monoxide. There are hundreds of different types of devices and juices available. As E-cigarettes are relatively new on the market,  and research is ongoing on their benefits and negative effects, the HSE still does not endorse E-cigarettes as an option to help give up cigarettes and recommend NRT (e.g., nicotine patches) as the first option.

A common question is whether electronic cigarettes should be recommended by health care professionals. Public Health England (2016) published a report that indicates that they carry a fraction of the risk of smoking cigarettes but are not risk free.

Support from the HSE

Contact the Quit Team for free support at Freephone: 1800 201 203, Free text: QUIT to 50100, Email: Twitter: @HSEQuitTeam.


What is BPro Cardio Screen Service?

BPro Cardio Screen measures stiffness of your arteries to identify risk of blockages and risk of cardiovascular disease and circulation problems. BPRo is placed like a watch on your wrist and is pain free. A pulse wave reads and calculates a wave signal that indicates the elasticity of large, small, and peripheral artery walls as well as tests for stress, central blood pressure, heart rate, and more. It is now €35 (was €50); it only takes about 15 minutes. The next clinic is Saturday Jan 30th from 9am to 6pm) at Whelehans Pearse St. Book by calling Whelehans at 04493 34591. We take all safety precautions to keep you safe from COVID 19.


To be continued… next week on prescription treatment options


For comprehensive and free health advice and information call in to Whelehans Pharmacies, log on to or dial 04493 34591 (Pearse St) or 04493 10266 (Clonmore).


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