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Stop Smoking Tools: Their Pros and Cons and How to Successfully Quit

Habits are hard to break, especially if you’re a smoker. We all know that it’s horrible for our health, but we can all agree it’s pretty tough to quit.

“Most Americans are addicted to nicotine – an addictive chemical inside cigarettes – more than any other drug,” Gregory Golden, DO, a pulmonologist with Banner Health Clinic in Northern Colorado. “It’s as difficult to give up as cocaine, heroin, alcohol and methamphetamines.”

While it’s tough to kick smoking in the butt, there are plenty of reasons to do it—and plenty of services and products that can help increase your chances of success. We asked Dr. Golden to share some of the pros and cons of the most popular ones and some additional tips to help set you on the right path.

Pros and cons of smoking cessation products

There are lots of smoking cessation products, but generally they fall within two categories: nicotine replacement therapy and medication. Things like nicotine patches, lozenges and gum can be found over the counter at any pharmacy or drugstore, but products like pills, inhalers and nasal sprays will require a prescription.

Skin Patches
  • What it does: Sticks to the skin of your upper arm to slowly release nicotine over the course of a 24 hour day into your bloodstream.
  • Pros: Skin patches are easy to use, available in various doses and can control cravings and withdrawal symptoms throughout the day. They also can be used in addition to other quit smoking aids.
  • Cons: You can’t quickly adjust for additional cravings. Wearing the patch can also lead to side effects like skin itching, rashes, irritation and sleep disturbances.
Lozenges and Gum
  • What they do: They slowly release nicotine in your mouth. If using a patch, these can give you extra help.
  • Pros: They are available in different doses and can control sudden nicotine cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
  • Cons: Must be used repeatedly throughout the day and may cause mouth irritation, jaw soreness, heartburn and hiccups. In addition, it may damage dental appliances.
Zyban (Bupropion)
  • What it does: It is a prescribed medication that can help reduce cravings of nicotine.
  • Pros: It’s easy to use, can be used in combination with other stop smoking aids and may reduce the weight gain some smokers experience after quitting cigarettes.
  • Cons: It must be taken twice a day and can cause dry mouth, headaches, insomnia or changes in mood and behavior. It also can’t be used if you have a history of seizures.
Champix (Varencline)
  • What it does: It is a prescribed medication that can help reduce cravings of nicotine.
  • Pros: It’s easy to use, can be used in combination with other stop smoking aids and is one of the most successful medications.
  • Cons: It can cause nausea, insomnia and strange or vivid dreams. It can also cause sudden changes in mood or behavior and some caution must be given to those with a history of depression or suicide.

Important Note: When it comes to deciding what will work best for you, discuss with your doctor. If you have certain health problems or are pregnant, you may not be able to use some of these products.

Are e-cigarettes or vaping a good alternative?

No. Two large national studies published in 2020 report e-cigarettes are not effective in helping adults quit smoking and they may actually promote an addiction to vaping.

Important advice when it comes to kicking the habit

The best advice Dr. Golden can give to his patients is to never give up; just keep trying. “Each individual attempt could be more successful than the one before until you finally kick the habit,” he said.

The other piece of advice? “Seek counseling or a quit partner, like a friend, neighbor, spouse or someone out of town,” he said. “Studies have shown, and in my observation, people who have support are much more likely to succeed and stay off cigarettes.”

There are lots of different smoking cessation products, but they won’t be helpful on their own. The success rate of someone quitting without help is only around 5%. Using these products in conjunction with counseling and outside support can significantly boost your success rate.

For additional tips to kick the habit for good, check out “No Butts About It: Quit Smoking Now.”

The Tobacco Recovery Program at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center can also help you quit using cigarettes and other tobacco products. To learn more about this program, visit

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