Smoking kills. And is expensive. Both are good reasons to stop smoking. Those who do not dare to go cold turkey can use nicotine replacement products. Öko-Test tried plasters, chewing gum, lozenges and sprays.

Smoking is the greatest avoidable health risk in Germany. According to the Federal Ministry of Health, more than 127,000 people die every year in Germany as a result of tobacco consumption. However, most smokers are unimpressed by such numbers and continue to smoke. And: Before the corona pandemic, the proportion of smokers in the population aged 14 and over was around 26 to 27 percent. By the end of 2021, the rate had risen to 30.9 percent, as shown by the representative long-term study “German Smoking Behavior Survey” (Debra). The stress …

Besides, cigarettes are a drug. The other side is that smoking is expensive – and getting more expensive. Above all, because the state is on the one hand concerned that its tax-paying citizens remain healthy and efficient, but on the other hand likes to benefit from the compulsive vice of smokers in the form of taxes. Well, it’s the same with dealing with alcohol.

But especially at the turn of the year, many smokers take heart and want to quit smoking – and often fail because the dependence on cigarettes takes place on many different levels. Socially, psychologically, or simply because the beer or coffee tastes half as good without a cigarette. And finally, heavier smokers in particular are also physically addicted – to the nicotine contained in cigarettes. Nicotine replacement products start at this physical level.

Öko-Test tested the ingredients of twelve nicotine replacement products in the form of chewing gum, lozenges, patches, sprays and an inhaler and had their effectiveness assessed on the basis of studies. Two thirds of the products score “very good”, the rest “good”. All nicotine replacement products have been proven to be effective and may increase the chance of quitting smoking. Eight “very good” and four “good” nicotine replacement products can make the initial period after quitting smoking easier, especially for those who are heavily addicted. They replace the nicotine from the cigarettes that are not smoked and the dosage can be gradually reduced.

However, the nicotine substitute cannot quite keep up with the quick kick from the cigarette. If the smoker inhales the nicotine directly from the cigarette, it reaches their brain within seven to ten seconds. There it provides a pleasant feeling by releasing messenger substances such as dopamine, serotonin and endorphins.

Nicotine patches stay on the skin for 16 to 24 hours. They keep the nicotine level constant. The nicotine from chewing gum, tablets, sprays and inhalers penetrates the blood faster than from patches. They are sucked, chewed or sprayed throughout the day as needed. In doing so, they give users the feeling of being in control of their nicotine intake and give the now-underused mouth something to do.

However, Öko-Test recommends avoiding products with the auxiliary substance titanium oxide. The substance has been banned in food throughout the EU since August of this year. It is suspected of damaging the genetic material. It is still permitted in medicinal products. Four chewing gums or lozenges are only “good” if using titanium oxide. The very good “Nicotinell mint lozenges 2 mg” (7.62 euros per 15 pieces) show that nicotine replacement products can also do without.

Also rated “very good” were the “Nicorette Inhaler 15 mg nicotine” (10.50 euros / 6 cartridges), the “Nicorette Mint Spray 1 mg/spray” (17.05 euros / 64 sprays), the “Nicorette Transdermal patch 15 mg nicotine” (4 euros / 1 patch) and the “Nicotinell 14 mg/24-hour patch” (3.94 euros / 1 patch) are recommended.

The detailed test is available free of charge on Öko-Test.

(This article was first published on Wednesday, December 28, 2022.)