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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Abha Shah

Best nicotine patches to help you quit smoking, approved by experts

Nicotine is one of the hardest addictions to kick; one of the reasons many say you shouldn’t start smoking in the first place. 

The others you likely know already: it’s catastrophic for health, smothering lungs with tar, wrecking hair, skin, nails, and senses of smell and taste - and that’s just for starters. 

While smoking rates in the UK are on the decline - according to the ONS, in 2022, 12.9 per cent, or 6.4 million people, smoked, down from 13.3 per cent in 2021 - the invention and widespread use of e-cigarettes means that a new generation of smokers has emerged, with young women the most likely demographic to vape daily. 

While they may not contain the tar and other toxic chemicals found in traditional tobacco cigarettes, many experts say that vapes simply haven't been around long enough to understand the damage they could wreak long-term. 

Public Health England (PHE) famously said that vapes were 95 per cent safer than smoking normal cigarettes (a figure many vape manufacturers pounced on to market their products), but a government report led by King’s College London academics found that vaping is not entirely risk-free, as many believe, especially if you’ve never smoked before. 

Rather, vaping can help those who already smoke to stop. Professor Ann McNeill, Professor of Tobacco Addiction and Nicotine Research Group lead at the IoPPN, King's College London said: "The evidence indicated that when appropriately regulated and used, e-cigarettes helped smokers to stop and offered a much less harmful means of continuing nicotine use for those that wished to do so."

But again, the lack of long-term vaping studies means that the consequences, if any, of using them still lurk behind a massive question mark. 

The government has proposed a ban on disposable vapes, many of which are fruit-flavoured and so appeal to children and young smokers who may not have become addicted to nicotine otherwise. Ministers will also vote towards a gradual ban on the sale of tobacco to people of all ages. The road to a smoke-free UK is being laid.

Meanwhile, Cytisine, a pill made from natural laburnum seeds, is now available in the UK. The plant-based smoking cessation medication could be more effective than other forms of nicotine replacement treatment, but currently, it's only available on prescription.

The best way to protect your health is to end nicotine dependence completely, but if you’ve ever tried to you’ll know it’s a case of easier said than done. Going cold turkey rarely works, but thankfully, there are other ways to help your journey to going smoke-free: with nicotine replacement therapies like nicotine patches.

How do nicotine patches work?

Invented by Dr Frank Etscorn in the mid-80s, a nicotine patch is a transdermal aid that slowly releases low levels of nicotine into the bloodstream - it can take as long as eight hours to get to a steady level. Some can be worn all day, others should be removed while you sleep. The patch was made to stop people from getting the drug the traditional way, by smoking.

While patches, along with nicotine gum, have been available on NHS prescriptions, you can buy them without a prescription too. 

Who can use nicotine patches?

They are designed for adults. If you're under the age of 18 or pregnant, you should discuss smoking cessation options with your doctor first.

Are nicotine patches better than vapes?

According to the NHS's Better Health website, "You're roughly twice as likely to quit smoking if you use a nicotine vape compared with other nicotine replacement products, like patches or gum."

That doesn't mean that patches are without their merits. As well as getting a buzz from nicotine, breaking the routine of lighting up is one of the things that makes cigarette smoking so challenging to give up. E-cigarettes and vapes are successful because they mimic the act of smoking. If you're trying to stop, altering the way you ingest nicotine could help. 

Stop Smoking Support

The first step starts with having a conversation with yourself and asking for support. The second? Finding patches that work for you.

To help, we’ve rounded up the best available options from pharmacies and online shops. 

Scroll on to see the full list

NiQuitin Clear Patches - 10 Week Bundle - Steps 1, 2 & 3 (21mg, 14mg & 7mg)

NiQuitin is a market leader and this 10-week plan is designed to wean heavy smokers (who are on 10+ a day) off cigarettes and nicotine in three steps.

All three boxes are clearly marked for ease of use, and each contains transdermal patches with lower and lower levels of nicotine so your body gradually gets used to needing less. The manufacturers say these products are suitable for adults and children aged 12 years and over, but you must be at least 16 to buy them.

Buy now £110.20, Boots

NiQuitin Nicotine Patch

If the mere thought of quitting has you reaching for your lighter out of anxiety, NiQuitin's Pre-Quit option could help.

The clear patch is loaded with 21mg of nicotine, making it suitable for heavy smokers, and is designed to be worn while smoking when you really need to. Slowly weaning yourself off physical cigarettes like this is thought to be a more stable option than giving up completely, and it can be worn 24 hours a day to help those whose withdrawal symptoms are particularly severe.

Buy now £9.98, Amazon

Nicorette Starter Bundle: Nicorette Invisi 25mg Patch 7s & Icy White 2mg Gum 105 Pieces

Give yourself the best possible chance at stubbing out cigarettes for good with Nicorette's bundle, which includes gum as well as a box of seven patches. Designed to help heavy smokers, the clear patch releases nicotine slowly while the gum is there to help with intense cravings as they occur.

Buy now £23.00, Boots

Nicorette Starter Bundle: Nicorette Invisi 25mg Patch 7 & QuickMist 1mg/spray Mouthspray Freshmint 150 sprays

An alternative bundle for those who don't want to chew all day, this option swaps gum for a fresh mint flavour mouth spray. It contains 1mg and is suitable for both light and heavy smokers with 150 sprays per QuickMist cartridge.

Buy now £24.75, Boots

Nicotinell Nicotine Patch

Heavy smokers who light up 20 times or more a day may find help from Nicotinell's patches, which are also offered in stages. Step 1 contains a seven-day supply loaded with 21mg of nicotine that can be worn 24 hours a day. The high level of nicotine is designed to help ease common withdrawal symptoms, like irritability, cravings and frustration.

Once the week is up, you can move on to Step 2, which contains 14mg of nicotine, and then down to Step 3, which has 7mg.

If you don't think a week will be enough to step down your nicotine supply, boxes with a 21-day supply are also available (£22.95).

Buy now £9.00, Amazon

Boots NicAssist Translucent 25mg Patch Step 1

Competing with the bigger name brands, Boots has devised an in-house nicotine patch, also to be used in a three-step programme. Box one contains seven 25mg patches, to be worn for 16 hours a day each. Step 2 takes it down to 15mg while Step 3 offers patches with 10mg of nicotine.

Buy now £9.15, Boots

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