Nicotine patches and gum are about as far as you can get from a ‘complete’ solution to the smoking problem. Nicotine Replacement Treatments (NRT) truly focus only on the 'nicotine' side of quitting smoking, and don't begin to address the psychological side of the dependence at all.
The fact of the matter is, the 'habit' of smoking includes a powerful psychological component that can produce cravings to smoke long after the nicotine has been cleared from your body, regardless of whether you use NRT products.
Don’t get me wrong – NRT can help you quit, but if you do decide to try nicotine patches or gum, it will be really important to combine them with a strong program for getting rid of your psychological dependence, too.
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Nicotine stop smoking gum and lozenges, along with nicotine patches, and nicotine sprays & inhalers, are all types of nicotine replacement products which work basically the same way – by replacing the nicotine from cigarettes with a dose of nicotine from the product. (If you haven’t read about nicotine replacement stop smoking aids overall, you may want to read that first.)
Stop smoking gum and lozenges deliver nicotine to your body through the lining of your mouth, NOT through your stomach/digestive system. This method of delivery is still slower than cigarettes, but it is faster than the patch. Sprays and inhalers are faster than gum and lozenges. The only brand of stop smoking gum is Nicorette, and the nicotine lozenges are called "Commit."
The speed of nicotine delivery does two things: One the one hand, faster delivery means you can regulate your nicotine intake ‘in the moment.’ However, it also makes the product more addictive. So gum and lozenges may be more difficult to quit than the patch (even with equivalent nicotine content), but less difficult than sprays and inhalers.
How to Use Gum and Lozenges
Nicorette gum is used by chewing a piece when you have an urge for a cigarette. The idea, however, is to make sure that the ‘juice’ from the gum is absorbed by the lining in your mouth, not swallowed and processed by your digestive system.
The instructions for using nicotine gum instruct you to chew for a little while until you feel a tingle, which indicates that nicotine has been released. Then you ‘park’ the gum between your gum and cheek to allow the nicotine to be absorbed through the lining of your mouth.
If you decide to use stop smoking gum, be careful to follow these instructions. If you just chew continually, instead of ‘parking’ the gum as directed, the nicotine goes through your digestive system instead of the lining in your mouth. The end result is you’ll get an upset stomach, plus the nicotine won’t get into your system in sufficient concentration to alleviate withdrawal/craving, because of the length of time it takes to process through your digestive system.
Besides Nicorette gum, there is now also a lozenge to deliver replacement nicotine to your body, called the Commit lozenge. The lozenge is used in basically the same way as stop smoking gum – you put a piece in your mouth when you need a dose of nicotine. Of course, with the lozenges, it is important not to chew. They take about half an hour to dissolve.
Because you can choose the nicotine content of the gum/lozenges, and also ‘chew and park’ at your own intervals for the gum, these products allow you to control your nicotine dosage.
Both the gum and the lozenges come in two dosages: 2 mg and 4 mg. Each piece of gum or lozenge contains the specified amount of nicotine. The idea is that heavy smokers should start out with the larger dosage, and lighter smokers with the lower dosage.
A heavy smoker is alternately defined as someone who smokes more than 24 cigarettes a day, or someone who smokes their first cigarette within 30 minutes of waking up. You could also calculate the amount of nicotine in the cigarettes you smoke by multiplying the nicotine content per cigarette – usually listed on the side of the pack – by your usual number of cigarettes per day.
Maximum recommended number per day for lozenges is 20; for gum the maximum recommended number per day is 24.
For both the gum and the lozenge, the idea ultimately is to use them for a couple of months and then gradually wean yourself off of them by reducing your intake.
Side effects of both the stop smoking gum and lozenges include sore mouth, indigestion, and irritated throat. Some people may also experience strange dreams or other sleep disturbances, jaw soreness, headaches and nausea.
Many people don’t care much for the flavor, either, but manufacturers have been working to improve that, and there are now some different flavor choices available.
Gum or Lozenge?
Both the gum and the lozenge allow you to control your nicotine dose ‘in the moment,’ although it actually takes a few minutes to feel the effect. So which should you choose?
If you are a ‘chewer,’ stop smoking gum may be a natural choice for you. (Certainly, if you’re one of those people – like me – who could never get to the center of a tootsie pop without biting, you’ll want to avoid the lozenges – chewing them is a bad idea.) You may also want to consider using the nicotine patch, and just using regular (non-nicotine) chewing gum to freshen your breath and occupy your mouth.
Nicotine gum is a bit sticky and more difficult to chew than regular gum, so if you have problems with gum sticking to dental work, or if you just don’t want to be chewing all the time, consider trying the lozenges. You might also consider using a patch instead of an oral nicotine product, and sucking on mints or cinnamon toothpicks to occupy your mouth.
Pros and Cons
What are the pros and cons of using nicotine gum or lozenges to help quit smoking?
Nicotine gum and lozenges are less addictive than sprays and inhalers, but more difficult to quit than the patch, when the time comes.
They are easy to use, and allow you to control your nicotine dosage, including gradually weaning yourself off of them after a couple of months.
Nicotine gum and lozenges require more attention than the patch – you have to consciously remember to put one in your mouth before you start craving nicotine, or you may begin to experience withdrawal symptoms.
They are more difficult to quit than the patch. It is not uncommon for quitters to report using nicotine gum for several months, or even a year or more.
Cost – gums and lozenges may cost you a bit more than therapy with the patch, depending on your usage. Still, it is within the range of most quit smoking aids.
Compare Stop Smoking Aids
2 – 4 weeks
Like other NRTs, nicotine stop smoking gum and lozenges have been shown to be moderately effective at helping people quit smoking, so I wouldn't discourage you from using them if they seem right to you, but see the two notes below.
Do remember that NRT products, including nicotine gum and lozenges, are NOT a ‘magic pill’ that will make quitting effortless – you must still have a plan for eliminating the psychological dependence on cigarettes if you want to be successful.
While the research shows no overall difference in effectiveness, I think that the patch has some advantages over stop smoking gum and lozenges for dealing with the psychology of quitting. Because of its slow and steady delivery of nicotine, you don’t have to respond to constant ‘ups and downs’ of nicotine levels in your body, as you do with other NRTs. The patch will help keep withdrawal symptoms at bay while allowing you to learn new ways to respond to events. The patch is also the least psychologically addictive of the NRTs, so it should be easier to quit when the time comes.