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Smoking cessation health centre

Treatment options for quitting smoking

NHS Choices Medical Reference

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Treatment Pros Cons
Stop-smoking support

Used to strengthen resolve, cope better with cravings. Includes individual counselling, group counselling, self-help material, telephone counselling. Used as 'standalone' treatment or in combination with medication

  • No risk of side effects, complications
  • Safe to use during pregnancy
  • Less effective as standalone treatment
Patches, gum and more

All under the broad heading of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), these provide body with nicotine to relieve cravings. NRT available as skin patches, gum, lozenges, nasal sprays, tablets and inhalers that look like plastic cigarettes. Combination of NRTs can be used

  • People who use NRT are almost twice as likely to quit than people who use no treatment
  • Possible risk during pregnancy; however, risk is far outweighed by risk of smoking
  • Can cause skin irritation (patches), nose, throat and eye irritation (nasal sprays), vivid dreams, headaches, dizziness, upset stomach
Bupropion (Zyblan) tablets

Bupropion is a prescription medicine that changes neurotransmitter levels, which helps reduce cravings

  • People who use bupropion are twice as likely to quit than people who use no treatment


  • Not safe during pregnancy or breastfeeding, or for under 18s
  • Cannot be used by people with a history of epilepsy (or a history of seizures), bulimia, anorexia, bipolar disorder, severe cirrhosis of the liver, or a tumour of the central nervous system
  • Can cause dry mouth, upset stomach, insomnia, headache, loss of concentration, and dizziness. Rare (but serious) side effects include seizures and suicidal thoughts
Varenicline (Champix) tablets

Varenicline (Champix) is a prescription medicine that reduces cravings and blocks the effects of nicotine, making smoking less pleasurable

  • People who use varenicline are three times more likely to quit than people who use no treatment
  • Not safe during pregnancy or breastfeeding, or for under 18s
  • Reports of serious adverse effects, including agitation, depression, suicidal thoughts and/or behaviour, hallucinations and heart attacks
  • Can cause headaches, difficulty sleeping, abnormal dreams, nausea, increased appetite, changes in the way things taste, dry mouth, sleepiness, tiredness, dizziness, vomiting, constipation, diarrhoea, upset stomach
Complementary and alternative medicines (CAMS)
Treatments not based on conventional medicines. Widely used CAMS are acupuncture and hypnotherapy
  • Low risk of side effects, complications
  • Usually safe during pregnancy
  • Lack of good quality evidence of effectiveness
  • Not recommended by NICE
Medical Review: April 17, 2010

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