Nicotine skin patch

Also called nicotine transdermal patch

Easy-to-read information about nicotine patches, when they are used, how to apply them safely and possible side effects.

What is nicotine patch?

A nicotine patch is a form of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). This means that it provides you with a low level of nicotine and reduces your urge to smoke and the withdrawal symptoms associated with stopping or reducing smoking. Read more about nicotine replacement therapy (NRT).

Using two NRT products, eg, a combination of patches and either nicotine gum or lozenge, is more effective than using one. It can take a while for the patch to start working, so using a faster-acting type of NRT (nicotine gum, mouth spray, lozenge or inhalator) helps to reduce cravings. Read more about which type of NRT is best for me.

Which nicotine patches are available in New Zealand?

In New Zealand there are two brands of nicotine patches – Habitrol® and Nicorette®.

Habitrol is the funded brand, which means that it is available free or at a subsidised cost from your pharmacy ($5 for a 4 week supply, with the option of a free repeat). Learn more about how to get NRT.

Habitrol patches are available in different strengths (7 mg, 14 mg and 21 mg). When applied, the patch slowly releases nicotine over 24 hours through the skin. 

Nicorette patches are available to buy from your pharmacy. They come in 3 strengths (10mg, 15mg and 25mg). These patches are applied for 16 hours each day and then removed.

Dose

The strength of the patch will depend on:

  • the number of cigarettes you smoke a day
  • how soon after waking in the morning you smoke 
  • if you are taking other NRT products.

Most people will need a lower strength patch as they get further into their quit programme. Your healthcare provider will advise you on the best dose for you. 

If you are pregnant, you can still use the nicotine patch, it is safer than continuing to smoke, but it is best removed before bed. Talk to your lead maternity carer about the best options for you.

How to use a nicotine patch

  • Apply the patch once a day. Some patches stay on for 16 hours, some stay on for 24 hours.
  • Put the patch on in the morning to dry, non-broken, non-hairy skin on the hip, trunk, or upper arm.
  • Hold the patch on for 10–20 seconds to ensure it sticks.
  • Remove the old patch at bedtime if you are using the 16 hour patch, or in the morning if you are using the 24 hour patch. If you are pregnant, it is best to remove the patch before you go to sleep. 
  • Put the new patch on a different area in the morning. Avoid using the same site for several days.
  • Dispose of used patches safely — fold the patch in half with the sticky sides together. Make sure to dispose of it out of the reach of children or animals. Read more about the safe use of medicine patches. 

Tips

  • Don't tear or cut nicotine patches.
  • Some procedures such as MRI scan may overheat the patch and burn the skin. Talk to your health care provider before your procedure.
  • Avoid lotions or perfumes on areas where you stick your patch as it may mean the patch does not stick well.
  • If the patch comes off, try sticking it back on with medical tape. Read more about the safe use of medicine patches. 

Possible side effects

Like all medicines, NRT can cause side effects, although not everyone gets them and serious side effects are very rare. Often side effects improve as your body gets used to the new medicine. 

Side effects What should I do?
  • Skin irritation
  • Burning sensation
  • Redness
  • Itching
  • This is quite common when using the patch.
  • Apply the patch to a different bit of skin each day.
  • Tell your healthcare provider if this bothers you.
  • Sleep problems (insomnia)
  • Strange dreams
  • Try removing the patch before you go to sleep.
  • Tell your healthcare provider if this bothers you.
  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Tell your healthcare provider if this bothers you.
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. Nicorette® Nicotine 16 hr Invisipatch Nicorette NZ

References

  1. Nicotine NZ Formulary, 2022
  2. Guide to prescribing nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) Ministry of Health, NZ, 2021
Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist. Reviewed By: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland Last reviewed: 04 Aug 2022