What is Nicotine Gum?

R. Kayne

Nicotine gum is a type of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), for smokers trying to kick the habit. Nicotine gum is chewing gum laced with nicotine.

Cigarettes in an ashtray.
Cigarettes in an ashtray.

The idea behind nicotine gum is to use it in place of a cigarette when a craving strikes. The gum releases nicotine into the system via a less psychologically addictive method than smoking, and minus the poisonous gases and tars found in cigarette smoke. Using less and less gum over a period of time theoretically weans the smoker from the nicotine habit.

Woman smoking a cigarette.
Woman smoking a cigarette.

An appealing feature of nicotine gum for some is that the user controls the delivery system, unlike a nicotine patch which delivers a constant stream of nicotine to the system whether a person feels they need it or not. However, some believe a disadvantage of nicotine gum is that it reinforces the "need-feed" habit created by nicotine addiction, while a patch eliminates this roller coaster effect.

There is a proper and improper way to chew nicotine gum. If chewed improperly, nicotine gum can be upsetting to the stomach. Directions on one leading brand specify a few small deliberate bites until you get a "peppery taste and a tingle." Then they suggest "parking" the gum at the cheek, and leaving it there. Make sure to read all instructions on the packaging of any nicotine gum purchased, and follow those instructions carefully.

Nicotine gum comes in various strengths, depending on how much you smoke. A common regiment is using 1 piece of nicotine gum every 1-2 hours, gradually increasing the time between pieces over a period of 12 weeks, until you can quit the gum completely. But even if it takes longer to quit, nicotine gum is still healthier than smoking.

Anyone using nicotine gum must stop smoking completely and use the gum instead. Too much nicotine in the system can cause severe illness and even death.

Although nicotine gum is available over the counter you should always consult your doctor before starting on any new health regiment.

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