Nicotine chewing gum

Easy-to-read information about nicotine gum, when is it used and possible side effects.

What is nicotine chewing gum?

Nicotine chewing gum is a form of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). This means that it provides you with some nicotine to reduce your urge to smoke and the withdrawal symptoms associated with stopping or reducing smoking.

Nicotine gum releases nicotine quickly and it is useful for helping with cravings. The chewing action also works to distract you from your craving, giving your mouth something else to do (other than smoking).

For your best chance of success, use a combination of NRT such as the faster-acting gum, along with the nicotine patch which releases nicotine slowly over a few hours. Read more about nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). 

Which nicotine gum is available in New Zealand? 

In New Zealand there are a few brands of nicotine gum that you can buy from your pharmacy – Habitrol, Nicorette and Nicotrol. They are available in two strengths (2 mg and 4 mg) and a few different flavours. 

Habitrol is the funded brand, which means that it is available free from a stop-smoking service provider or at a subsidised cost from your pharmacy (
$5 for a four week's supply, with the option of a free repeat). Learn more: How can I get NRT?

Dose

Nicotine gum is available in two strengths, 2 mg and 4 mg. For best results, make sure you start on the right dose. Your dose of gum depends on:

  • how many cigarettes per day you are smoking and,
  • how soon after waking you needed your first cigarette and,
  • other NRT products you are using.

Your health care provider will advise you on the best dose for you.

  • Use no more than one piece of gum every 1 to 2 hours for the first 6 weeks of your quit attempt. Try to think ahead about when you might get a craving for a cigarette, and then use a piece of gum before the craving happens. This is to ensure that your body gets enough nicotine to ease the withdrawal symptoms you may be feeling. 
  • If you are using the gum with the nicotine patch, you should use the lower 2mg strength. You may not need to use the gum as frequently because you will use it when you get or expect a craving.

How to use nicotine chewing gum

Nicotine gum is not like regular chewing gum. For the best results it is important to use it correctly.

  • Place one piece of gum in your mouth and chew slowly until the taste becomes strong.
  • Rest or park the gum between the gum and the cheek to absorb the nicotine.
  • When the taste has faded, start chewing again.
  • In total, chew for around 30 minutes then discard the gum. 

Tips when using nicotine gum 

  • Avoid acidic drinks such as coffee, fizzy drinks or fruit juice for 15 minutes before chewing the gum.
  • Remove dentures before using the gum as the gum can stick to and damage dentures.
  • After 3 months you may only need 1 to 2 pieces of gum per day; then you may be able to stop completely. For some people, this could take up to 6 months. 

Possible side effects

Like all medicines, NRT can cause side effects, although not everyone gets them and serious side effects are very rare. Side effects may be similar to smoking withdrawal symptoms which should disappear within 4 weeks. Often side effects improve as your body gets used to the new medicine.

Side effects What should I do?
  • Scratchy throat
  • Increased salivation
  • Fast heart beats
  • This is a common side effect.
  • Discuss with your doctor if troublesome - you may need to use a different formulation.
  • Hiccups
  • Vomiting
  • Dyspepsia
  • This is a common side effect.
  • Let your doctor know if it is troublesome.
  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • These are a common side effect for all NRT products, not just chewing gum.
  • If you have headaches, try taking paracetamol.
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty in sleeping
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • These are a common side effect for all NRT products, not just chewing gum.
  • Tell your doctor if troublesome.
  • Nausea
  • Mouth ulcers
  • These are a common side effect for all NRT products, not just chewing gum.
  • These are common at the beginning of treatment as nicotine can irritate the mouth lining.
  • Tell your doctor or pharmacist if troublesome.
  • Increased appetite
  • Weight gain
  • These are a common side effect for all NRT products, not just chewing gum.
  • Tell your doctor if this is a concern
Did you know that you can report a side effect to a medicine to CARM (Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring)? Report a side effect to a product

Learn more

  1. Nicotine replacement therapy NZ Formulary

References

  1. Habitrol  Product Datasheet Medsafe NZ 2021
  2. Nicotine NZ Formulary, 2022
  3. Guide to prescribing nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), Ministry of Health, NZ 2021
Credits: Sandra Ponen, pharmacist. Reviewed By: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland Last reviewed: 17 Aug 2022