Quit-smoking aids

Products are available to help you quit smoking. Keep this information in-mind to decide if they're right for you.

Woman reads a brochure about quitting smoking

Types of quit-smoking aids

You may be aware that several products are available to help you during the quit process. There are 2 main types of products available:

Nicotine replacement

Nicotine replacement comes in the form of gum, patch, inhaler, lozenge, etc. that contain nicotine. Nicotine gets absorbed through the skin or tissues in the mouth and travels in the blood until it reaches the brain. Because these products give the brain nicotine, they work by temporarily relieving the desire for nicotine, just as smoking a cigarette would do, but without all the harmful chemicals. They are available without a doctor’s prescription with guidance from your pharmacist.

Medications (Zyban [bupropion] and Champix [varenicline])

These are medications that must be prescribed by a physician. They work on the level of brain chemicals and do not contain nicotine. 

Note: As with all medications, Zyban and Champix have side effects. On May 30, 2013, Health Canada posted an alert to the public indicating that “CHAMPIX (varenicline tartrate) and ZYBAN (bupropion hydrochloride) are non-nicotine prescription drugs used to quit smoking and each should be used with supportive counselling. Before trying CHAMPIX or ZYBAN, you and your healthcare professional should consider a nicotine replacement therapy (patches, gum, lozenges, etc.)”

Information from the company that makes Champix states that “Some people have had changes in behavior, hostility, agitation, aggression, depressed mood, and suicidal thoughts or actions while taking CHAMPIX to help them quit smoking. These psychiatric symptoms have occurred in people with previous mental health issues, as well as in those with no previous history. Some people had these symptoms when they began taking CHAMPIX, and others developed them after several weeks of treatment or after stopping CHAMPIX.”

Prescribing information from the company that makes Zyban states that "Serious neuropsychiatric reactions have occurred in patients taking ZYBAN® for smoking cessation. The majority of these reactions occurred during bupropion treatment, but some occurred in the context of discontinuing treatment. In many cases, a causal relationship to bupropion treatment is not certain, because depressed mood may be a symptom of nicotine withdrawal. However, some of the cases occurred in patients taking ZYBAN who continued to smoke.  


Should you use quit-smoking aids?

It is your choice as to whether or not you wish to use these products. As you make your decision, consider these points: 

  • The vast majority of those who have effectively quit smoking have done so without the help of any of these products. 
  • The manufacturers of these products claim that they will double your chances of quitting. However, independent research on the effectiveness of these products doesn’t show an advantage to using them.
  • As with all medications, there are side effects associated with medications for quitting smoking. They range from mild irritation of the skin with the patch to an increased risk for suicide with the drug Zyban.
  • With the gum and the patch, your brain will still be getting nicotine (but you won’t get the thousands of other chemicals from the cigarette). This means that you are still getting the substance you are addicted to. (This is similar to giving alcohol to a person struggling with alcohol addiction in order to break the addiction to alcohol.)
  • These products may give you a false sense of security. If you think the product is doing all the work, you might not build the coping strategies or the right attitude that are necessary to effectively quit. If you decide to use any of these products you must still do all the work that is outlined in this booklet (or any other form of counselling). Counselling alone is more effective than using these aids alone. Counselling combined with quit smoking aids has been found to be no more effective than counselling alone.
  • None of these products is meant to be taken over a long period of time. You will eventually have to stop using them, and you may feel the negative emotions of quitting all over again when you stop with the aids.


What about e-cigarettes?

E-cigarettes are becoming more widely-available. They are often promoted as a way to become smoke-free. However, the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization and many other reliable, respected bodies identify many potential risks and harms associated with e-cigarettes, and do not recommend them as part of an effective smoking cessation strategy. 

For more information and a complete workbook to help you quit smoking, visit your guide to qutting smoking for good!

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