Nicotine Patch vs. Nicotine Gum: The best tool for your goals

You’ve made the decision – you’re ready to take charge of your health and cut back on smoking cigarettes or vaping. But where to begin? The market is saturated with nicotine-replacement therapies (NRTs), behavioral strategies such as counseling or hypnosis, and miracle cures (let’s be honest – it’s a miracle if they work at all). Sometimes continuing to smoke may even seem like the easiest choice.

If you’re considering trying nicotine patches or gum, you’re one step closer to cutting back on smoking or vaping. Both are great – but different – choices, and there are various pros and cons to consider for each, from health implications, to frequency of use, to how you manage cravings. You’re likely wondering which works better - nicotine patches or gum?

So what exactly is a nicotine patch?

Nicotine patches are a long-acting NRT in which small, continuous amounts of nicotine are absorbed through your skin throughout the day. They’re meant for 24-hour use for at least six weeks, depending on your smoking habits and weight.

Per Harvard Health Publishing, people who smoke “more than 10 cigarettes a day should start with the highest-dose patch for at least six weeks…[and] those who smoke less than 10 cigarettes per day or weigh under 99 pounds should start with a medium-dose patch for six weeks,” then switch to a lower dose for two more weeks.

The patches can be skin-colored or clear and should be replaced in 24-hour cycles, meaning they’re changed once a day.

Benefits of nicotine patches

You can think of nicotine patches as a kind of “set it and forget it” way to cut back on smoking or vaping. Once your patch is in place, you don’t need to think about it until the next day. They’re also generally clear or skin-colored, so you can wear them without feeling self-conscious or obvious.

However, wearing a patch doesn’t guarantee that cravings won’t occur – that’s where nicotine gum comes in.

What is nicotine gum?

Nicotine gum is just that – a chewable (but shouldn’t be swallowed) piece of gum that contains small amounts of nicotine to help with cravings that can occur when quitting or cutting back on smoking. Harvard Health reports that someone who smokes “more than 25 cigarettes per day should use the 4-mg dose,” while those who smoke less should use a 2-mg dose.

Nicotine gum can be used in a similar way to cigarettes or vaping. Anytime you feel a craving coming on (or if you’re with friends who want to take a smoke break), you can avoid the pressure to smoke by popping a piece of gum, releasing a small amount of nicotine to assuage any cravings.

Benefits of nicotine gum

Nicotine gum offers more of a “quick fix” to cravings. Patches stay on your body for 24 hours, and while they consistently release nicotine, you may not feel the same immediate relief that can come from smoking or vaping. Gum, on the other hand, takes care of those shorter-term cravings that can come on quickly.

Additionally, if you feel self-conscious about wearing a patch, nicotine gum is a much less obvious way to cut back on cigarettes.

Negatives of nicotine patches

It’s hard to beat the ease of use of nicotine patches, but there are a few side effects to be aware of:

1.     They can present skin issues such as rashes, burning, itching, or redness. If this happens to you, consider moving the patch to a different location with each use (rather than placing it on the same spot of your body daily).

2.     They may fall off, especially if used when showering or swimming. Ensure to keep an eye on them during water activities and replace them after drying off if this occurs.

3.     They cause sleep issues for some – this could include bad/vivid dreams, or trouble falling asleep. Manufacturers recommend removing the patch before bedtime if this happens.

4.     They may cause nausea, vomiting, upset stomach, diarrhea, or even increased blood pressure. Make sure to talk to your doctor before using a patch to make sure it’s a fit for you.

Negatives of nicotine gum

If you have issues using the patch or need extra help, nicotine gum may be right for you. However, it’s important to keep its potential side effects in mind:

1.     If swallowed or used improperly, it could cause hiccups, dizziness, nausea, or upset stomach (similar to the patch).

2.     According to Everyday Health, studies have found that “15 to 20 percent of smokers who use nicotine gum to successfully quit keep using the gum for a year or longer.” This means that while you may successfully quit smoking or vaping, you do risk becoming addicted to the gum. However, Everyday Health also reports that using the gum is still “safer than going back to smoking.”

Can you use nicotine patches and gum together?

If you’re not sure which NRT will work best for you, you could try them both separately, or you could just start out using both. This helps cover all the bases, letting the patch provide continuous nicotine to prevent future or ongoing cravings, while gum can be used on an as-needed basis when cravings hit.

Harvard Health reports that combination NRT use (using a long-acting replacement such as the patch along with a short-acting agent such as gum) is “more effective than a single form of NRT alone.” This also allows smokers to adjust their intake to avoid both withdrawals and overuse, similar to how you would when smoking or vaping.

Final thoughts

If you’re like many, you’ve probably wondered if nicotine patches or gum are better. While neither may be objectively “better” overall, one may be better for you - consider the benefits and drawbacks of each to make an educated decision before trying either.

Getting started

Ready to give NRTs a try? If gum is part of your plan, consider LUCY chew + park. This nicotine gum comes in three flavors and is made from only purified tobacco, not containing any part of the tobacco leaf. It can be used anywhere, so you can cut back on cigarettes or vaping while still maintaining a healthy, social lifestyle.

The information contained in this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should not be construed as a substitute for, professional medical or health advice on any subject matter. Please consult your physician regarding any medical treatment decisions.