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 or an electronic cigarette. As a result, you don't get the same "hit" of nicotine as with smoking.
Do not begin to use an inhaler until you have stopped smoking.
Here's how to use a nicotine inhaler.
- Read the directions.
Read and follow the directions that came with the medicine as well as any directions your doctor gave you.
- Set up the inhaler.
A nicotine inhaler kit comes with a nicotine inhaler and cartridges that have nicotine. You place a cartridge into the inhaler and pierce the cartridge to release the nicotine.
- Use the inhaler when you crave a cigarette.
- 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.
- Monitor your use of the 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).
- Dispose of empty nicotine cartridges carefully.
An empty cartridge still contains enough nicotine to make a child or pet very sick.
- Be aware of safety and other concerns.
- Clean the mouthpiece regularly with soap and water.
- 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.
- Do not use a nicotine inhaler for more than 6 months.
- 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 22, 2023
Author: Healthwise Staff
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Michael F. Bierer MD - Internal Medicine, Addiction Medicine