Tips for a New Year: Quit-Smoking Medicines

Using quit-smoking medicines can help you go smokefree this year—yes, even if you’ve tried them before! And there has never been a better time to quit. A recent Surgeon General’s reportexternal icon found that quitting cigarettes can have big health benefits, including reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and several types of cancer.

Maybe you’ve used nicotine patches or gum in the past, or maybe you’ve tried doctor-prescribed quit-smoking pills in your quest to kick cigarettes. Maybe you’ve only thought about using quit-smoking medicines before. There are new ways to use these medicines, described below, which can further increase your chances of success.  When it comes to trying to quit smoking, the best advice is: don’t give up.

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Tackle the Toughest Times

Quitting smoking can be hard, but using medicines approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) can help in three major ways:

  1. They make quitting less painful. Medicines help you handle withdrawal symptoms, including cravings for cigarettes, trouble sleeping and concentrating, and irritability. Medicines with nicotine—called nicotine replacement therapy, or NRT—give your body enough nicotine to lessen withdrawal symptoms and control cravings. Medicines without nicotine lower your urge to smoke and also decrease withdrawal symptoms.
  2. They are safe. All FDA-approved medicines are proven to be safe based on many years of research.
  3. They help you get through the tough times. Quit-smoking medicines can help you get through the early days or weeks of quitting, when it’s hardest to stay motivated and when your urge to smoke is highest. Make sure to use the medicines as directed. Taking the right dose for the right amount of time is important for success.
New Year, New Approaches

Even if you’ve tried to quit smoking with medicine before, try again. Studies show that these Five New Ways to Quit With Medicines work for adults who want to quit smoking:

  1. Use more than one NRT medicine. Using the nicotine patch along with a nicotine lozenge or gum can increase your chances of quitting for good. Put on a patch in the morning to lower withdrawal symptoms during the day, and use gum or a lozenge when you have strong cravings.
  2. Ask your doctor about varenicline. Varenicline, a quit-smoking pill, has proven to work especially well. This medicine lowers your urge to smoke, and it also makes smoking less enjoyable if you do have a cigarette. You will need a prescription to use varenicline, so talk to your doctor before quitting if you want to give it a try.
  3. Combine counseling or coaching with medicine. Using the two together can just about double your chances of quitting successfully. You can get counseling online, in person, by yourself, or in a group. You can also call a quitline to be connected with free quit coaching.
  4. Get free or reduced-cost quit-smoking medicine. Most health insurance plans cover FDA-approved quit-smoking medicines. If you don’t have insurance or the medicine is not covered, your state may offer free or reduced-cost NRT. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW to find out.
  5. You can start taking some medicines before you quit. Starting NRT—especially the patch—1 or 2 weeks before you quit may help your chances of quitting for good. It is recommended you start taking varenicline a week or more before your quit date. Your doctor will tell you about the best time to start when you get your prescription.

Medicines can play an important part in your plan to stop smoking, no matter which type you decide to use. Talk to your doctor, pharmacist or other health care provider for more information on how to use medicines with coaching or counseling to help you quit smoking for good.


Below are several free resources to help you in your quit journey. Remember to keep trying until you find one that works best for you. Make 2021 the year you finally quit for good!

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Real-World Results

It’s important to remember that you’re not alone in your quit journey. Along with family and friends, you can get support from a doctor, pharmacist, counselor, or quit coach, as well as other people who are trying to quit or have quit successfully.

Beatrice R. shared her strategy for quitting with CDC’s Tips From Former Smokers® (Tips®) campaign. She used the nicotine patch and other medicines to help her stop smoking, along with encouragement from her family. “You’re going to need support, because it’s not always easy,” Beatrice said. Although quitting can be hard, she wanted to share her story to inspire others: “I want to offer hope to people that it is possible for you to join the ranks of nonsmokers.”

This can be your year to take a new approach and enjoy the benefits of quitting. Like Beatrice and millions of other Americans, you have access to valuable quitting tips and proven medicines that can help you reach your smokefree goal.