A nicotine inhaler looks like a cigarette. It has a cartridge that contains nicotine. You inhale, and nicotine vapor is absorbed into your mouth and throat area. You don't absorb the nicotine into your lungs like you do with a cigarette. As a result, you don't get the same "hit" of nicotine as with smoking.
Nicotine inhalers are available only by prescription.
You may find a nicotine inhaler helpful if you have trouble breaking free from smoking rituals, such as pulling a cigarette out of the pack, lighting it, putting it in your mouth, and inhaling.
The inhaler does not deliver nicotine as rapidly as a cigarette. The risk of addiction, or of transferring your nicotine habit from cigarettes to the inhaler, is low.
How to use a nicotine inhaler
Do not begin to use an inhaler until you have stopped smoking.
A nicotine inhaler kit comes with a nicotine inhaler and cartridges containing nicotine. You place a cartridge into the inhaler and pierce the cartridge to release the nicotine.
- When you feel the urge to smoke, hold the inhaler between your fingers and draw on it as you would a cigarette. It takes many more puffs to get an effect, about 3 to 4 times more puffs than when you smoke a cigarette.
- Replace the cartridge after about 20 minutes of active puffing. Puffing on the inhaler for 5 minutes at a time will give you enough nicotine for four uses before the cartridge is empty.
- Dispose of empty nicotine cartridges carefully. An empty cartridge still contains enough nicotine to make a child or pet very sick.
- Clean the mouthpiece regularly with soap and water.
- Do not use a nicotine inhaler for more than 6 months.
Other important guidelines for using an inhaler
- Use the nicotine inhaler longer and more often at first. In a few days you will find what works best for you.
- Most people use 6 to 10 cartridges a day. Your doctor may adjust the number of inhaler cartridges you get during the first weeks. Do not use more than 16 cartridges each day unless your doctor tells you to do so.
- As your body adjusts to not smoking, your doctor will tell you either to stop using the inhaler or to slowly reduce the dose.
- Inhalers are usually used for about 12 weeks and then use is slowly decreased (tapered off).
- Avoid drinking beverages, especially acidic ones (such as coffee, juices, and soda pop), for 15 minutes before and after you use the inhaler.
- The inhaler does not work properly in temperatures below 50°F (10°C), so it may not be a good choice if you plan to use it outside during winter months in a cold climate.
It is possible to become dependent on the nicotine inhaler, but this is rare.
There are side effects from using the nicotine inhaler. Read the package insert before you use an inhaler.
Current as of: March 12, 2020
Author: Healthwise Staff
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Michael F. Bierer MD - Internal Medicine, Addiction Medicine