Stop smoking treatments and your asthma

Stop smoking treatments work by reducing your craving to smoke. Find out what stop smoking treatments are out there, and which ones are safe for your asthma.

If you’re keen to stay on top of your asthma symptoms, giving up smoking is one of the best things you can do.

The good news is there's a lot of support out there for people who want to quit, including treatments and medicines to help you.

In fact, did you know that using stop smoking treatments, alongside support from NHS support services, boosts your chances of successfully giving up smoking?

This is good news for your asthma, and your health in general.

Get the right stop smoking treatment for you

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT)

E-cigarettes

Champix® (vareniciline)

Zyban® (bupropion)

Complementary therapies

Get the right stop smoking treatment for you

Before starting any of the following stop smoking treatments, make sure you talk to your GP, smoking specialist or pharmacist to find the safest one for you.

It’s a good idea to keep in touch with your GP or asthma nurse. They can support you with your asthma while you’re on your quit smoking plan.

Always let your GP know if you've noticed any unusual symptoms, or your asthma getting worse, after using any stop smoking treatment.

They can:

  • adjust your asthma medicines if necessary. It may be that you will need less asthma medicines at some point after you quit smoking. For example, if you’ve been prescribed theophylline for your asthma the dose you take may need to be adjusted once you’ve cut down your smoking. But don’t cut back on any of your asthma medicines until you’ve talked about it with your GP or asthma nurse first.
  • review your asthma action plan.

NRT – nicotine replacement therapies

Nicotine products are licensed by the NHS. They are viewed as a safe and effective way for most people to cut down or stop smoking. You can get them on prescription, or over the counter at the pharmacy.

The idea behind nicotine replacement products is that they replace the nicotine you’d get from smoking, but without the harmful toxins found in cigarettes.

If you're using the right amount of NRT for you it can help avoid side effects from nicotine withdrawal, such as tremors and sweating, moodiness, anxiety and difficulty concentrating or sleeping.

There are several NRT products to choose from. For example, skin patches which give a slow steady supply of nicotine; gum, tablets and lozenges which give a fast-acting hit of nicotine; inhalators, and nasal sprays.

E-cigarettes are also a form of nicotine replacement. But they are not currently available on prescription from the NHS.

Some people find using more than one type of NRT product helpful - for example, using patches to cut down background cravings, and a nasal spray for whenever you’re tempted to reach for a cigarette.

Are NRT products safe for people with asthma?
Most of these NRT products are safe for people with asthma, but there are some things to be aware of, so always talk to your GP or stop smoking advisor first. For example:

  • inhalators may not be suitable for someone with asthma because they can irritate the throat and cause coughing
  • nasal sprays sometimes cause coughing as a side effect
  • e-cigarettes are not yet made to medicinal standards
  • nicotine is addictive, so you need to use enough to prevent withdrawal symptoms and reduce the dose gradually before eventually stopping.

E-cigarettes

E-cigarettes are another product providing nicotine for people who want to quit smoking cigarettes. They’re not yet available on prescription, although they are regulated by Tobacco and Related Products Regulation 2016.

The idea behind e-cigarettes is that you stop smoking completely before starting to use them. If you choose a product with the right strength of nicotine for you, using e-cigarettes can help you manage your nicotine cravings.

The quit rate is about the same as for other kinds of NRT, but success depends on using them every day and with the right strength of nicotine. Newer devices are better at delivering the nicotine needed to support stopping smoking.

It can take a bit of time to find the right device for you. You may need to change the dose of nicotine, the device, or the flavourings.

Like other stop smoking treatments they’re most effective when combined with stop smoking support.

Are e-cigarettes safe for people with asthma?
Current evidence says that e-cigarettes are a good stop smoking tool for some people and are around 95% safer than smoked tobacco. And some studies have shown that people with asthma have used e-cigarettes to give up smoking, and their symptoms have improved with no problems.

But e-cigarettes are not completely risk-free. For example:

  • In our 2017 annual asthma survey 14% of people with asthma told us that either using e-cigarettes, or being exposed to second-hand vaping, triggered their symptoms.
  • e-cigarettes are not yet made to the same standards as medicines and haven’t been through the same safety checks as other nicotine replacement therapies.
  • there’s more evidence for the effectiveness of other stop smoking treatments like NRT, varenicline and bupropion.

This is an issue where more evidence about e-cigarettes is emerging all the time, and more research is needed on their effects for people with asthma, in the short term, as well as on the long-term health impact of using e-cigarettes.

Champix® (vareniciline)

Champix® tablets are available on prescription only. Champix® cuts down your craving to smoke – meaning you're less likely to have an urge for a cigarette so it can help you quit more easily.

When you start on a course of Champix® you set yourself a quit day about 7-14 days into the course. It's really important that you do all you can, and get all the help and support you need, to stick to this quit day.

Most people manage to quit in 12 weeks. Studies suggest that Champix® quit rates are high first-time round – you're three times more likely to quit compared to people who use no treatment at all.

Is Champix safe for people with asthma to use?
Asthma isn’t listed as a reason for not taking Champix®, however whenever you're starting a new treatment it's important to talk it through with your GP or asthma nurse or smoking specialist first and make sure it won’t make your asthma worse.

One of the possible side effects of Champix® that is particularly relevant for people with asthma is feeling breathless and coughing. Although this is not considered a common side effect it does affect up to 1 in 10 people taking Champix®.

For a full list of safety factors and possible side effects read the patient information leaflet.

Zyban® (bupropion)

Zyban® tablets are available on prescription only from your GP or smoking specialist. They are designed to support you in giving up smoking by reducing your cravings to smoke.

Zyban® acts on the part of the brain that deals with addictive behaviour, so it can help with cravings and smoking habits.

Like other stop smoking treatments Zyban® also cuts down the withdrawal symptoms that often go with giving up smoking, making the whole process a bit easier.

Is Zyban safe for people with asthma to use?
Whenever you're starting a new treatment it's important to talk it through with your GP first and make sure it won't make your asthma worse.

Asthma isn’t listed as a reason for not taking Zyban®, however 1 in 1000 people taking it experience difficulty breathing and wheezing.

Although this is a rare side effect, it's worth talking it through with your GP or smoking specialist to make sure this treatment won't increase your risk of asthma symptoms.

Always read the patient information leaflet that comes with the medicine for the full safety guidelines and side effects.

Complementary therapies?

Some people find complementary therapies, such as acupuncture and hypnotherapy, a useful support when they're giving up. But there's no clear evidence to prove they can help people quit.

However, lots of people find complementary therapies help them reduce stress. As people tend to smoke more when they're under stress, a complementary therapy which brings down your stress levels might work for you.

Remember to make good use of the proven NHS services as well so that you have a package of support to up your chances of giving up smoking for good.

Not sure where to start?

 

Last updated September 2018

Next review due September 2021