Nicotine Patches

What is a nicotine patch?

A nicotine patch gives you a small amount of nicotine; much less than you get when you smoke. It helps to reduce craving and urges to smoke. You can get it without a prescription.

How does it work?

When you place the nicotine patch on your skin, the nicotine in the patch passes through the skin and into the body.

What dose do I choose?

Number of cigarettes per day

Patch dose

Less than 10 cigarettes per day
7 mg patch
10-19 cigarettes per day
14 mg patch
20-30 cigarettes per day
21 mg patch

How should I use the nicotine patch?

  • Most people place the patch on their upper body.
  • Peel off the backing from the nicotine patch and place the patch on your skin. Hold the patch for 10 seconds to make sure it sticks.
  • Change the patch at the same time every day.
  • Change where you place the patch to lower the risk of skin irritation.
  • Throw out the used patch by folding the sticky side together and placing it in its original wrapper.
  • Wash your hands after putting on or taking off the patch.

Weeks after quitting

Patch dose


Less than 10 cigarettes per day
7 mg patch
10-19 cigarettes per day
14 mg patch
7 mg patch
23-30 cigarettes per day
21 mg patch
14 mg patch
7 mg patch

Most people use the patch for 12 weeks, but some people need to use it longer to stay smoke free.

What are the side effect?

  • Sweating
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Skin Irritation
  • Change in dreams
  • Upset stomach/nausea
  • Allergic reaction
    • Rash or hives
    • Trouble breathing
    • Skin swelling that lasts more than 24 hours (at the patch site)
    • Racing or skipping heart beat
  • Seek help right away if you have an allergic reaction to the nicotine patch
  • Keep nicotine products out of the reach of children and pets.

Can other nicotine products be used with the nicotine patch?

A nicotine patch is safe to use with other nicotine products such as gum or lozenge. Nicotine gum or lozenge is used as needed to help with craving and urges to smoke.

Talk to your doctor or health care provider to choose the best medicine to help you quit smoking.

Resources to help you quit smoking

If you are ready to stop smoking, there are many ways to increase your chances of quitting. The right mix of support, planning, and medicine can help you quit for good. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve tried to quit in the past. Consider checking out your options. Most are free.


Medicine can double your odds of quitting. It can help you feel more comfortable as you adjust to life without cigarettes. Talk to your doctor to decide which medicine (if any) might be right for you.

Experts at UPMC hospitals

You can call the UPMC Referral Service at 1-800-533-UPMC to learn about group support sessions. Tobacco treatment specialists a many UPMC hospitals and clinics will help you develop a personalized quit plan.

The Pennsylvania Free Quitline

This hotline provides telephone support at 1-800-QUIT NOW. Counselors are available any time, day or night, every day. They can also connect callers with local services.

Self help guide

Journey to a Smoke Free Life is a self-help workbook written by experts at UPMC. It can help you develop a successful strategy to quit.

Online help

An online resource,, allows you to choose the type of help that is right for you.

At the hospital

If you are an inpatient at a UPMC hospital:

  • Ask your nurse if the hospital has the UPMC patient education TV channel, which features a video about quitting smoking.
  • Ask to talk one-on-one with a smoking cessation counselor.

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For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

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