Research shows that people who have the best chance of quitting are those who get some coaching and use quitting medications. The more contact you have with a coach or support service, the better your chances of quitting.
People who use nicotine replacement products (such as patches or lozenges) are more likely to quit and stay stopped.
Nicotine replacement products are intended to reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms, such as cravings, irritability, mood swings and anxiety while you focus on breaking your smoking habits and learn to live without cigarettes. You can discuss with your pharmacist, doctor or Quitline advisor which product would best suit you.
Smoking is often linked to habits and emotions, so you may get some cravings in situations where you used to smoke. Support from the Quitline, a health professional, a trained Quit Educator or the online QuitCoach can help you handle these situations.
If you have any medical conditions, are taking any medicines (including non-prescription ones), or are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should talk to your pharmacist or doctor before using nicotine replacement products. If you are aged 12 to 17 years, you may use nicotine replacement products to quit, with support from your doctor or counselling service.
If you experience a mental health condition, consult your doctor before you start using any medications. Your doctor will suggest appropriate medications for your situation.
Government subsidised medications
From February 1 2011, Australian smokers will be able to access nicotine patches under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). To access the discounted patches you will need a prescription from your doctor or authorised medical practitioner; this then can be presented to your pharmacist at the time of purchase.
Patches are available as a 12 week supply each year (one original script plus two repeats) of either the 7mg per 24hrs, 14mg per 24hrs, 21mg per 24hrs or 15mg per 16 hours.
If you are unsuccessful in quitting using nicotine patches, your doctor can prescribe subsidised buproprion (also known as Zyban or Prexaton), or varenicline (also known as Champix) through the PBS.
Read more about subsidised medications.
Nicotine replacement products
These products are available from pharmacies and some supermarkets, and are easy to obtain without a prescription. Using nicotine replacement products to quit is always safer than continuing to smoke.
Nicotine replacement products do not contain the many dangerous chemicals found in tobacco smoke and all products work equally well.
It's important that nicotine replacement products are used properly and for the correct amount of time. Follow the instructions on the pack insert (ask your pharmacist to provide this) on how to use your chosen product to get the best value
If your cravings are strong or you have not been able to quit using one product alone, your pharmacist or doctor may recommend using combination therapy, which is using the patch with the nicotine gum or lozenge.
The nicotine patch comes in three sizes, and you can usually start with the strongest patch (either a 15mg 16 hour patch or a 21mg 24 hour patch). The patch is worn on the skin, and you absorb nicotine from it continuously. Some people may find patches easier to use than other nicotine products.
If you smoke 15 or more cigarettes per day, you may also use a type of patch (called a "Pre-Quit" patch) for two weeks leading up to your quit day. This product can increase your chance of success.
Gums, lozenges and other products
With the nicotine gum, lozenges, tablets and inhaler, you absorb nicotine through the lining of your mouth over a short period of time.
If you feel unready or unable to quit, the "cut down to stop" method allows you to use the nicotine inhaler, gum or lozenge while cutting down the number of cigarettes you smoke over six months before stopping completely. The pack insert has instructions on how best to do this.
Both bupropion (Zyban, Prexaton) and varenicline (Champix) reduce withdrawal symptoms when you quit. Varenicline also works by blocking the nicotine receptors in your brain and making smoking less satisfying. They're not suitable for everyone and can trigger strong side effects in a small number of people. You'll need to talk to your doctor to find out if they're right for you. You are allowed one course each of bupropion and varencline on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) every year, which makes them relatively cheap.
It is important that you read all of the Consumer Medicine Information that comes with the tablets and talk to your doctor about any symptoms that worry you. This information is printed for you at the pharmacy when the prescription is being filled.
For more detailed information on each nicotine replacement product and prescription medication, visit Frequently asked questions.