Methods and medications

There are many effective ways to quit smoking, and no one way works for everyone. To increase your chances of quitting for good, it’s helpful to know which evidence-based methods have been proven to increase your odds of success. Evidence shows that combining telephone counselling with medications or NRT can increase your chances of successfully quitting. Learn about the various methods and medications to help you determine what will work best for you.

Quit with extra help. Explore our resources and tools to make quitting easier. 

Prescription medications

Prescription medications do not contain nicotine but reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms by affecting how nicotine interacts with your brain. Using quitting medications can increase your chances of quitting smoking successfully. It's even more effective when combined with counselling support.

Nicotine replacement therapy

Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) works by providing the body with nicotine to help reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings. NRT is one of the most effective tools to help people quit and can increase your chances of quit success. It's even more effective when combined with counselling.
Nicotine patch
The nicotine patch is a non-prescription medication (over-the-counter) available at your local pharmacy. It is applied to the skin, releasing a controlled dose of nicotine over time to help reduce your cigarette cravings.


When used as directed, there is evidence it can increase your chances of successfully quitting.


  • Easy to use - just put it on once per day and forget about it.
  • Useful for heavier smokers who need steady release of nicotine.
  • Designed to temporarily replace some of the nicotine that cigarettes would normally supply and thus reduce the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal such as cravings, irritability and anxiety.
  • You can choose the strength of the dosage. This is dependent on the number of cigarettes you smoke per day. See below for suggested dosages or talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

Common side effects

  • Headaches
  • Cold or flu-like symptoms
  • Dizziness
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep problems
  • Vivid dreams
  • Stomach upset
  • Mild itching, burning and tingling are normal in the first hour of wearing the patch
  • Redness of the skin when the patch is removed

Note: Remove the patch and consult your doctor if you experience chest pain, irregular heartbeat, palpitations, leg pain or persistent stomach upset while using the patch.

How to use the patch

  • Dosing should be individualized based on how much you smoke.
  • The patch should be applied and left on the skin for 24 hours per day. Other patch products may be different.
  • The patch comes in three patch sizes, which give doses of 21 mg/day (Step 1), 14 mg/day (Step 2) and 7 mg/day (Step 3).
  • Typically a pack-a-day smoker would wear each size for 3 to 4 weeks, gradually reducing nicotine delivery by going from Step 1 to Step 2 to Step 3.

Note: For more info on getting the proper dosage, read the package insert, consult with your physician, pharmacist or contact our QuitLine at 1.877.455.2233 and speak with a Quit Coach.

Things to remember

  • Mild itching, burning and tingling are normal in the first hour of wearing the patch.
  • Do not use more than one nicotine patch at a time. Using more than one would increase your risk of experiencing side effects.
  • Do not cut or trim the patch. This will interfere with how the nicotine is released from the patch. Only use the nicotine patch as directed.
  • Remove the patch two hours before prolonged strenuous activity or going scuba diving. These activities may increase your risk of experiencing side effects.
  • If you find yourself still craving cigarettes while using the patch, speak with your doctor or pharmacist to see what options (such as using nicotine gum and the patch together) are available for you. But remember that PharmaCare will only cover one smoking cessation aid per calendar year: January 1st through December 31st.

Warnings & precautions

Do not use the patch if you have severe eczema, psoriasis or other generalized skin disorders.

Consult your pharmacist or physician prior to using the patch if the following apply to you:

  • Pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Being treated for any serious heart condition.
  • Heart attack or stroke within the last 2 weeks.
  • Require kidney dialysis.
  • Use any prescribed medication regularly. Smoking alters the effects of some medications, and when you quit smoking it may be necessary for your doctor to adjust the doses, especially if you are diabetic, taking medications for high blood pressure or heart disease, or taking antidepressants, tranquilizers or sleeping pills.

Stop using the patch immediately and see your doctor if you have:

  • Chest pain
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Palpitations
  • Leg pain
  • Persistent stomach pain
  • Rash or hives

Coverage of Nicotine Patches for BC Residents 

Each calendar year, eligible BC residents can receive a up to a three month supply of Nicoderm® patch (7 mg, 14 mg, 21 mg) through the PharmaCare BC Smoking Cessation Program. You can find more information about how to access this program here.

Other methods

There are other quit methods and approaches that people use to quit, but some are more effective than others. Read more about which methods will increase your likelihood of quitting in the long run.