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Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)

The Nicotine Inhaler

What is it?
The prescription-only nicotine inhaler is a thin, plastic cartridge that contains a porous nicotine plug in its base. By puffing on the cartridge, nicotine is extracted and absorbed through the lining of the mouth. Only a fraction of the dose released - less than 5% - reaches the lower respiratory tract. Each cartridge delivers up to 400 puffs of nicotine. It takes at least 80 puffs to obtain the equivalent amount of nicotine delivered by two cigarettes.

Temperature affects the amount of nicotine that is extracted from the inhaler device. At cooler temperatures, less nicotine is released; more information about this is included in the product packaging inserts. Using the inhaler approximately doubles the likelihood of quitting smoking compared to using no quit smoking medication.

How do I use the nicotine inhaler?
After placing the cartridge into your mouth, use either shallow or deep breaths to bring the nicotine into the back of your throat. Puff frequently, using from 6-16 cartridges per day during the first three months, then taper or reduce the number of cartridges during the subsequent 6-12 weeks. The manufacturer states that you shouldn't use the inhaler for longer than 6 months without your doctor's permission.

Some people prefer the inhaler as a form of nicotine replacement because both the inhaling process and handling the cartridge mimic the behavioral aspects of smoking.

What is the dose?
The initial dosage is individualized; you may self-dose to the level of nicotine you require. The best effect is achieved by frequent, continuous puffing for 20 minutes - about the how long one cartridge will last. A cartridge delivers about 4 mg of nicotine, though only 2 mg (the equivalent of about 2 cigarettes) are actually absorbed. The maximum suggested dose is 16 cartridges/day.

To help you determine if the inhaler is right for you, consider using the QuitNet Medication Wizard. If you decide to try the nicotine inhaler, see your doctor about a prescription.

More medically specific information ...

Content author: Alan S. Peters, CTTS-M
Reviewed by: Ann Wendling, MD, MPH, April 2013

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