Quit smoking medicines

Nicotine replacement therapies and prescription medicines are effective in smoking cessation. They are particularly suitable for smokers who are highly dependent on nicotine.
Read more about nicotine dependence

Smoking affects the concentration of many medicines in the body. If you have been prescribed medication for a chronic illness, tell your doctor that you are quitting smoking. Based on a doctor’s assessment, your dose can often be reduced after you have stopped smoking.

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Quit with nicotine replacement therapy or medication

Ask your healthcare professional whether you need nicotine replacement therapy or prescription medicines for smoking cessation. 

Medication is most effective when it is combined with counselling, support and monitoring of treatment results. 

Nicotine replacement therapy

Nicotine replacement therapy refers to licensed medicinal products that contain pharmaceutical nicotine to reduce withdrawal symptoms. 

Short-acting medicinal products that are sold in Finland as nicotine replacement therapy include

  • chewing gum
  • inhalers
  • oral sprays
  • pouches and 
  • lozenges and sublingual tablets.

Long-acting nicotine patches are also available.

The purpose of nicotine replacement therapy is to gradually reduce the amount of nicotine in the body so that the withdrawal symptoms are manageable. During the treatment, the level of nicotine in the blood is always lower than when smoking. This means that it is sufficient to alleviate withdrawal symptoms, but does not produce the peak nicotine concentrations that maintain nicotine dependence.

When using nicotine replacement therapy, the nicotine dose is gradually reduced. It is best to check with a healthcare professional at the beginning of treatment that the strength of the product is correct and sufficient. The standard treatment period is 2–3 months, but some smokers benefit from a longer treatment period.

Studies have shown, however, that treatment periods of more than six months are not beneficial. After long periods of nicotine replacement therapy, ending the therapy can be made easier by reducing your dose or switching from short-acting products to nicotine patches. If you have been on the replacement therapy for a long time, you should ask a health care professional for support with stopping.

Combination therapy can help those who smoke a lot and have a high nicotine dependence. In combination therapy, a long-acting product steadily curbs withdrawal symptoms while a short-acting product alleviates sudden cravings, preventing relapses back into smoking.

Prescription medicines for smoking cessation

Prescription medicines for treating tobacco dependence include 

  • varenicline 
  • bupropion and 
  • nortriptyline.

The standard duration of medication prescribed by a doctor is 2–3 months. Under certain conditions, health insurance can reimburse the cost of varenicline at the basic reimbursement rate. 
More information on varenicline reimbursement (Kela, in Finnish)

Social assistance customers can cover expenses for nicotine replacement therapy or prescription medicines prescribed for smoking cessation as health care expenses or other basic expenses.

Electronic cigarettes for smoking cessation

E-cigarettes and e-liquids are regulated under the Tobacco Act. E-cigarettes are sold as consumer products and they do not have medicinal sales permit, so they are not nicotine replacement therapies. 

The e-liquids and the aerosol produced when they are heated, contain harmful substances. Differences between liquids, mixing them, and varying e-cigarette device power all make it difficult to assess variations in the amount of harmful substances and their absorption. The health effects of long-term e-cigarette use are not known.

Research evidence on the effectiveness of e-cigarettes for smoking cessation contradictory. If an e-cigarette is used to stop smoking, it is essential to replace cigarettes entirely with the e-cigarette and also to use other methods to treat the tobacco dependence. If you successfully stop smoking, you should also try to stop using the e-cigarette.

Prolonged use of e-cigarettes maintains nicotine dependence and continues to expose users to harmful substances. To date, there is little research on effective methods for stopping the use of e-cigarettes. Options could include gradually reducing the amount of nicotine used or using nicotine replacement therapy treatment to quit. The standard treatment period for nicotine replacement therapy is 2–3 months