Every website promoting healthy lifestyle advice and tips will say “one of the best things you can do for a healthier body is stop smoking”. It is so well-known that smoking is bad for your health, that even 78% of smokers in Malaysia had a plan to quit smoking at some point in their life. This begs the question, on what is stopping them because there’s so many choices of NRT (nicotine replacement therapy) available. This is a typical Paradox of Choice, since consumers now don’t know which one to choose. This article will try to help them choose the use of nicotine gum or other NRTs on aiding smoking cessation.
Nicotine gum success rate
A study done on 3300 smokers shows that nicotine gum has a success rate of 40-90% on smoking abstinence for the first 24 hours. The study compares nicotine gum to a placebo and stops smoking cold-turkey. This already shows the instantaneous success rate of nicotine gum. For the next 6 months observation, participants who are on nicotine gum are 2-6 times more likely to achieve smoking cessation compared to the other groups. Hence, indefinitely shows how nicotine gum helps in starting abstinence and also maintains them.
Nicotine gum vs other NRTs
As mentioned earlier, there are many types of NRTs available in Malaysia. Knowing how other NRTs work, their advantages and disadvantages will help consumers to make a well-informed decision.
- Nicotine patch
It is a patch to the skin, mainly consisting of adhesive bandage and an area of nicotine reservoir. This nicotine reservoir releases a small and constant amount of nicotine that is absorbed through the skin. You usually have to wear the patch for at least 16-24 hours and put it on any area of your body between the hip, hands and necks.
The advantages of skin patch is it only requires daily patch changes. Compared to nicotine gum that needs almost constant attention on how to chew, for how long and when the next dose can be taken. However, the downside for nicotine patches is it takes too long to give out nicotine concentration to the bloodstream. Its side effects are also unpleasant. They usually cause skin irritation, requiring you to change sites of putting the patch and only use the previous spot after a 5 days interval. It also causes vivid dreams and insomnia.
- Nicotine inhaler
A nicotine inhaler usually looks like an e-cigarette cartridge. It’s simply a cartridge containing nicotine vapor. This vapor will enter the bloodstream via the mouth and throat area. While smoking causes nicotine to enter the lungs, nicotine inhaler does not. The only available dosage in Malaysia is 4mg compared to nicotine gum which have 2mg and 4mg dosage options.
Advantages of using the inhaler are it’s easy to use and rapid nicotine action in the body. Nonetheless, the disadvantages include myriad precautions and side effects similar to nicotine gum. It also has an added disadvantage of being much more expensive than the gum version of NRTs.
- Nicotine lozenge
As the name suggests, it is a lozenge containing nicotine. Similar to its counterpart NRT, nicotine lozenge supplies nicotine to reduce withdrawal symptoms. Nicotine lozenge efficacy and method of nicotine distribution is very similar to the nicotine gum.
Its advantages are reduced complaints of jaw pain which are usually seen in nicotine gum users. This is because you don’t have to constantly chew the lozenge. When compared to the gum, nicotine lozenge is also much more discreet to take on working hours in the office. The side effects and disadvantages experienced are also about the same to nicotine gum users. Additional drawback of nicotine lozenges is it does not help reduce psychological sensation on the mouth from taking cigarettes and hence risking overdosage. Nicotine gum gives a chewing sensation that keeps your mouth busy and away from cigarettes.
Stop smoking tools in the market are both safe and effective in overcoming nicotine dependence, especially nicotine gum. In Malaysia, stop smoking clinics can provide these NRTs depending on availability. Malaysia’s Ministry of Health also focuses more on smoking cessation education and counselling. As in its Tobacco Usage Disorder Guideline, stated that NRTs education and counselling should be given parallelly to prevent relapses.
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