What is the best medicine for quitting smoking?

Written by Rebecca Farley | Reviewed by a licensed U.S. pharmacist | Posted March 19, 2020 | Updated January 20, 2023

In 2020, smoking cessation is its own category of medicine, with drugs like Chantix and Zyban widely advertised on television. And it is in your best interest to quit: Per the CDC, smoking causes one in five deaths each year, making it the leading cause of preventable death. Even if you are over 60, quitting still aids your health.

Unfortunately, choosing the best way to kick a smoking habit is not easy. Every patient is unique, and figuring out how to quit an addiction, especially with the wealth of options, may take some calculating. One thing we do know is that quitting is much harder if you forego professional medical advice or assistance. According to one study, only three to five percent of smokers who quit without professional help managed to sustain a six-month smoke-free period. So, to stop smoking for good, it may be in your best interest to consult a clinician.

There’s nothing wrong with a little help, be it in the form of medication, therapy, or an accountability-focused app on your smartphone.

1. Quit smoking using Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)

For the most part, people can’t quit smoking because they are hooked on the main drug ingredient in cigarettes: nicotine. Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) is one popular method to kick a cigarette habit. Smokers can stave off withdrawal symptoms by wearing a nicotine patch, chewing nicotine gum, using nicotine spray, or sucking on a nicotine lozenge.

Nicotine Replacement Therapy Medication Prices

NRT (strength) quantity) U.S. Average Retail Price U.S. Prescription Discount Card Price at U.S. Pharmacies Lowest Accredited International Online Pharmacy Price
Nicorette Gum (4 mg) 105 pieces N/A $54.18 $72.43
NicoDerm CQ (21 mg) 14 patches $49.65 $29.33 $67.04
Nicotrol (10 mg) 1 nasal spray $190.33 $119.63 N/A

*Discount Card prices based on availability in pharmacies near New Orleans, LA.

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2. Quit smoking using prescription medication

Prescription medications that help smoking cessation work to curtail the pleasurable feelings associated with nicotine. They can also improve or balance your mood. The most popular smoking cessation drugs are as follows:

  • Chantix, which alters the brain’s reaction to nicotine, preventing the feeling of pleasure after smoking
  • Zyban, an antidepressant which soothes the body’s withdrawal symptoms
  • Wellbutrin, a treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which also helps smoking cessation and withdrawal symptoms

Of these three, only Chantix does not yet have a generic alternative available in the United States, which means that it can be very expensive. Chantix is a popular smoking cessation drug, although its effectiveness compared to the alternatives is unclear. A 2016 study found that it was no more effective than a nicotine patch. Other studies have suggested that Chantix works best in combination with NRT.

Each of these drugs can be found with much lower prices, either abroad or at your local pharmacy using the U.S. Prescription Discount Card, which you can nab here. If your physician prefers that you stick to the brand-name drug, like Wellbutrin or Zyban, you can find steep discounts at international pharmacies. The generic versions of both Zyban and Wellbutrin, though, are relatively cheap if you use the U.S. Prescription Discount Card at a U.S. pharmacy. In the case of Chantix, purchasing from an international pharmacy will give you a potential savings of about 82%: $566.38 vs. $99.96.

Compare Smoking Cessation Medication Prices

Drug (generic name) Strength quantity U.S. Average Retail Price U.S. Prescription Discount Card Price at U.S. Pharmacies Lowest Accredited International Online Pharmacy Price
Chantix (varenicline) 1 mg 60 tablets $566.38 $455.83 $99.96
Bupropion (generic) 150 mg 60 tablets $87.21 $18.00 $72.00
Zyban (bupropion) 150 mg 60 tablets $305.81 N/A $52.60
Bupropion SR (generic) 150 mg 60 tablets $62.80 $16.76 $21.29
Wellbutrin SR (bupropion SR) 150 mg 60 tablets $541.81 $424.61 $89.15
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3. Quit smoking using Apps

Welcome to 2020: You can use an app to quit smoking. Apps like Quit Tracker, which has a 4.7 average rating on Google Play, will help track “life gained” as well as “money saved” as you track your progress. The CDC has several online tools to help you quit smoking which include a quitSTART app that helps you quit smoking, monitor your status, understand what to do if you slip up and much more.

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Is any amount of smoking safe?

The short answer is no, because smoking tobacco is an addiction. According to the American Cancer Society, smoking causes 1 in 5 deaths in America, and no form of tobacco is safe.

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Does licking salt help quit smoking?

Licking salt may not help in a proven, double-blind clinical trial kind of way, but, anecdotally, it appears to be a favorite among smokers. The idea is that smoking is (or was) an oral fixation. By satisfying your impulse to have something near your lips, you have tricked your body out of needing tobacco. This may not cure your addiction, but if it helps, it helps.

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Does Smoke Away really work?

The history is not positive. Smoke Away is a popular dietary supplement that purports to help smokers, well, get the smoke away. In 2005, the company behind the product paid $1.3 million toward a settlement after the Federal Trade Commision accused the company of fraudulently representing the product as a cure-all. Smoke Away these days claims that the product works -- or you can get your money back, guaranteed. Per its website, the product uses “herbs” to soothe the body’s response to smoking cessation. It is, notably, not listed as one of the CDC’s ways to quit smoking.

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Can you reverse damage from smoking?

Yes. Per smokefree.gov, your risk of heart attack declines after just 24 hours without cigarettes. Your nerve endings will regrow, gifting you with the sense of smell and taste you had before you started smoking. Your blood pressure will sink, and your skin will clear. Not to mention, your dental health will improve.

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Is smoking JUUL or e-cigarettes better than smoking?

E-cigarettes will not produce smoke. Ostensibly, this means they lead to a reduced risk of heart attack. However, in 2019, e-cigarettes were linked to severe lung diseases that did, in certain cases, end in death. The CDC has determined that these cases were related to Vitamin E acetate, an ingredient that appeared alongside THC-related products. In other words, the e-cigarette lung injuries were not related to nicotine. This does not mean that JUUL or e-cigarettes are safe, per se, but using them with nicotine is not directly linked to injury. However, nicotine present in JUUL is still an addictive chemical. The CDC does not recommend using these products to help smoking cessation.

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Learn more about quitting smoking and prescription savings

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