(ARA) - Although smoking is often touted as an expensive habit, nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) to aid in quitting smoking can seem like an expensive purchase as well. The reluctance to spend money on smoking cessation products leads many smokers to try to do it "cold turkey" - the most popular method for quitting smoking, but also one that frequently leads to relapse.
However, the use of NRT products to quit smoking can almost triple a smoker's chances of success. Two of the more common over-the-counter medications are nicotine gum and nicotine lozenges. These treatments are oral dosage forms of nicotine and work as temporary aids to help reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Other effective smoking cessation products are available both over-the-counter and by prescription, including patches, nasal sprays and other medications.
"Your best chances for success in quitting smoking are using a medication and counseling. There are a number of options consumers have to save money on quitting smoking therapies," says Dr. Tom Peterson, smoking cessation expert and chair of Tobacco Free Partners. "They don't need to go at it alone just because money is tight. The first option is to consider purchasing 'store-brand' NRT products, which can be found in most retailers across the nation under their own brands. Store-brand NRT products are significantly less expensive but are equivalent to the national brands, in terms of both FDA regulation and efficacy."
To find even more savings, individuals can regularly monitor retailers' circular flyers and websites, and retailers will often discount NRT products - especially around popular "quit dates" such as after New Year's (January) and the Great American Smokeout (November), which is sponsored by the American Cancer Society.
In addition to the savings over-the-counter store-brand NRT products provide, consumers can also find potential bottom-line benefits by asking a health-care provider to write a prescription for these products.
"By going the prescription route, many insurance providers will offer the same NRT product for the cost of your lowest-tier co-pay, which may be less than the 'shelf' price," says Peterson. "It certainly depends on the insurance company, but it is worth looking into. In many states, Medicaid covers the costs of both over-the-counter NRT products and prescriptions for quitting smoking."
Other available avenues for savings include:
* Many employers offer free medication or assistance for employees looking to quit. It is always worth checking with your human resources department to find out if these resources are available to you.
* In some states, quit lines may offer free or discounted smoking cessation medication. Learn more by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW.
Tips to get started
The decision to stop smoking is an important one. Below are some tips to get started:
* Follow a support plan. Personalized plans are available at smokefreehabits.com.
* Throw away all cigarettes, lighters and ashtrays.
* When the desire to smoke strikes, do something else. The urge usually passes within two or three minutes.
* Carry things to put in your mouth, like gum or hard candy.
* Be active: Take a walk with a friend, go for a bike ride, walk the dog or play tennis.
* Go to places where you are not allowed to smoke.
* Ask friends and/or family for support.
There are a number of free resources and support programs available for individuals who are quitting smoking, including the American Cancer Society (www.cancer.org), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov/tobacco/osh), the National Cancer Institute (www.smokefree.gov), and the American Lung Association's Freedom from Smoking program (www.ffsonline.org). Store-brand smoking cessation products also offer an online support program (www.smokefreehabits.com) to help consumers track their progress.
Allegan, Mich.-based Perrigo is a pharmaceutical company that manufactures and distributes most of the over-the-counter medications found under store-brand labels at leading retailers, grocers, club stores and pharmacies, including store-brand nicotine gum and nicotine lozenges. Perrigo estimates its store-brand over-the-counter NRT products save consumers, on average, 42 percent over comparable brand name products.