Smokers should use nicotine patches or gum to help ease them through the first few months of quitting.
Research has shown that using nicotine patches produces far fewer heart problems than continued smoking, even for patients who smoked while wearing a patch. This is because they smoked fewer cigarettes.
Nicotine replacement therapy (e.g. gum, patches, tablets or inhalers) should only be used under medical supervision.
The nicotine from a cigarette affects the heart within seconds of inhaling. In contrast, the nicotine from patches takes hours to be absorbed.
Smokers have a preferred level of nicotine in their blood that varies between 10 and 100 nanograms per millilitre, with an average of 35.
The highest-strength patch delivers only 10 nanograms per millilitre of blood. So most smokers will need a combination of patches and gum or sublingual (under the tongue) tablet or inhaler to achieve their preferred blood nicotine level.
Once you have achieved your preferred level without smoking, and have stabilised for a couple of months, you can stop using the patches. However, it is always wise to carry gum, tablets or an inhaler for emergencies.
This information was first published in You and Your Heart - an education booklet for patients, families and friends. © 2006 Northern Sydney Central Coast Area Health Service