Nicotine Patch

Nicotine Patch icon

Nicotine patches come in different shapes and sizes. They are thin and stick to your skin. You put one nicotine patch on your skin in the morning and leave it in place all day. It releases nicotine throughout the day which is absorbed through your skin.


  • Put it on at the beginning of the day, then forget about it.
  • Put it on under clothing, so it is hidden.
  • Can be used with other nicotine replacement medicines such as lozenge and gum.
  • Provides a steady dose of nicotine all day.
  • Can be kept on in the shower.
  • Available in several strengths which you can reduce over time to ease you through nicotine withdrawal.
  • Side effects are generally minor and can be managed.
  • Available without a prescription (over-the-counter)


  • You can’t change how much nicotine gets released. If you have withdrawal symptoms you may need to increase your dose or add another medicine.
  • May be irritating if you have sensitive skin.

Possible Side Effects (and what you can do about them):

  • Skin redness, itching, or burning (rotate the patch to a different site each day).
  • Headache (try a lower dose patch).
  • Sleep disturbances such as difficulty sleeping and vivid dreams (remove patch at night).

Nicotine Patch Precautions (If any of these apply to you, talk to your doctor or other healthcare provider before starting to use the patch.):

  • A heart attack in the last two weeks.
  • A serious heart rhythm problem.
  • Pain in your heart (angina) that is serious or getting worse.
  • Allergy to adhesive tape or other serious skin problems like psoriasis and eczema.
  • Could be pregnant or are breastfeeding
  • Less than 18 years old.

More precautions and general information are available about nicotine patches.

The quit-smoking medicines talked about on this website are approved by the FDA for adults to use to quit cigarettes. If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or younger than 18, you should not use these medicines without talking to your doctor. If you use tobacco products other than cigarettes (like cigars, chew, snuff, hookah, or e-cigarettes), talk to your doctor or other healthcare provider or call the quitline (1-800-QUIT-NOW) to get help with quitting. All the ways to use medicines presented here are reviewed in Smoking Cessation: A Report of the Surgeon General (Chapter 6) [PDF-1.8 MB]. Some of the ways have not been evaluated or approved by the FDA.