How to Quit Nicotine Gum

Man holding packet of nicotine gum
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On the surface, chewing a couple of pieces of nicotine gum every day is much better than smoking. Cigarette smoke contains over 7,000 chemical compounds, 250 of which are known to be poisonous, and upwards of 70 that have been identified as carcinogenic.

We also know that inhaling secondhand smoke is hazardous, and for a smoker, it's a double whammy because we breathe in both mainstream and sidestream smoke. It puts us at risk for heart disease, COPD, and cancer for starters.

Research is ongoing; we don't yet fully understand all of the dangers that cigarette smoke presents.

That said, while cigarette smoke is worse than nicotine alone, nicotine is not a harmless drug. Learn its effects and whether replacement therapies are right for you. We also discuss how to quit nicotine gum and overcome your addiction to this drug.

Effects of Nicotine

When using nicotine replacement therapy to quit smoking, you should be aware of the potential risks that nicotine poses.

Nicotine Is Harmful

There is growing concern that long-term use of nicotine may contribute to cancer. Nicotine also affects how our bodies function — it puts stress on the heart and increases blood pressure.​

Nicotine harms the linings of our arteries which leads to the build-up of plaque, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke. Additionally, nicotine suppresses insulin output creating a hyperglycemic condition in smokers.

Nicotine Is Addictive

While it's true that the amount of nicotine you're getting daily from the gum may be small when compared to smoking, don't forget that nicotine is addictive. Regardless of how much or how little you're using, you're still feeding an active addiction.

The message you're sending to yourself is that you can't live without nicotine—that you're not strong enough to give nicotine up completely.

Should You Even Use Nicotine Gum?

Even though nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) have the potential for addiction, they are an effective way to quit smoking. Always use caution, however, and follow your healthcare provider's and the manufacturer's instructions.

All forms of NRT except for the nicotine patch are easy to misuse because you take a dose multiple times a day. The patch is the only NRT that is applied once in the morning and offers time-released nicotine throughout the day. 

Talk to your healthcare provider about your options and weigh the potential pros and cons of nicotine gum and other options before you decide which one is right for your needs. They may recommend the patch or a combination approach, such as a patch and lozenges or gum as nicotine replacement therapy. 

Research suggests that an approach that combines passive nicotine delivery (e.g. a nicotine patch) with an as-needed NRT (e.g. a gum, inhaler, or nasal spray) improves quit rates by 34% to 54% over the patch alone. The patch provides a steady concentration of nicotine while gum, lozenges, and other single-dose NRTs can help with breakthrough cravings.

NRTs have helped many thousands of smokers stop smoking successfully. Just remember that they are not intended for long-term use. Follow the manufacturer's directions exactly, and wean yourself off the NRT product of your choice in the time period suggested.

Why It's Important to Quit Nicotine Gum 

Recovery from nicotine addiction involves learning how to deal with life's ups and downs nicotine-free. If you remain dependent on nicotine, regardless of the form it comes in, you run an increased risk of a smoking relapse. Additionally, as is the case with habit-forming drugs, your tolerance for nicotine will increase over time, and so will your intake.

When the right (or wrong) situation presents itself, you may find it's a short jump to lighting up when a piece of nicotine gum isn't handy or doesn't do the trick in taking the edge off. Stressful situations will continue to trigger the urge for nicotine until you clear it out of your system and learn new ways of coping.

Don't let the unhelpful thinking that comes with nicotine withdrawal convince you to keep using. If you managed to stop smoking, you can go one step further and eliminate your dependence on therapeutic nicotine as well.

How to Quit Nicotine Gum

When first quitting smoking, you'll likely chew nicotine gum regularly, with some manufacturers recommending that you use around nine pieces per day for six weeks. After this, it's important to work out a realistic plan to wean yourself off of nicotine gum.

Some steps that you can take to quit nicotine gum include:

  • If there are specific times of the day that you use the gum, e.g. first thing in the morning, after meals, etc., choose the one that is the easiest to let go.
  • If you're chewing two or three pieces of nicotine gum per day, start by eliminating just one piece.
  • Substitute a piece of sugar-free gum or a healthy snack instead, and have a plan for a distracting activity should you need it.

Once you are comfortable with the new regimen, repeat the process with the second piece of nicotine gum and then the third until you are off of it completely. It doesn't matter how much time (within reason) that you take between each elimination. Step down when you feel comfortable, always keeping your goal in mind.

Some people can quit nicotine with gum in six to 12 weeks, with others taking longer. Although, it's generally recommended to not use nicotine gum for more than six months.

If you've used nicotine gum for a long time, you may experience withdrawal when stopping its use. While this subject doesn't appear to have been studied in recent times, one older study found that some long-term nicotine gum users experienced withdrawal symptoms such as increased irritability and trouble concentrating when quitting this NRT.

Support for Nicotine Addiction

Quitting smoking isn't easy, and you may also find it hard to stop nicotine gum. Ask for support and the load you're bearing will become much lighter.

You'll be surprised at how understanding others can be. Don't feel ashamed. You are not the first person who has ever had this problem—far from it.

You deserve a life that is free of nicotine addiction. Believe in yourself. You are strong enough to get nicotine out of your body, and out of your life.

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

10 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Terry Martin
Terry Martin quit smoking after 26 years and is now an advocate for those seeking freedom from nicotine addiction.