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Nicotine Inhaler

Topic Overview

A nicotine inhaler looks like a cigarette. It has a cartridge that contains nicotine. You inhale, and nicotine vapour is absorbed into your mouth and throat area. You don't absorb the nicotine into your lungs like you do with a cigarette. As a result, you don't get the same "hit" of nicotine as with smoking.

Nicotine inhalers are available without a prescription.

You may find a nicotine inhaler helpful if you have trouble breaking free from smoking rituals, such as pulling a cigarette out of the pack, lighting it, putting it in your mouth, and inhaling.

The inhaler does not deliver nicotine as rapidly as a cigarette. The risk of addiction, or of transferring your nicotine habit from cigarettes to the inhaler, is low.

How to use a nicotine inhaler

Do not begin to use an inhaler until you have stopped smoking.

A nicotine inhaler kit comes with a nicotine inhaler and cartridges containing nicotine. You place a cartridge into the inhaler and pierce the cartridge to release the nicotine.

  • When you feel the urge to smoke, hold the inhaler between your fingers and gently draw air into your mouth through the inhaler. Puff into your cheeks. Don’t inhale deeply. Hold the vapour in your mouth for a few seconds before breathing out. 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.
  • Dispose of empty nicotine cartridges carefully. An empty cartridge still contains enough nicotine to make a child or pet very sick.
  • Clean the mouthpiece regularly with soap and water.
  • Do not use a nicotine inhaler for more than 6 months.

Other important guidelines for using an 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 healthcare provider may adjust the number of inhaler cartridges you get during the first weeks. Do not use more than 16 cartridges each day unless your healthcare provider tells you to do so.
  • As your body adjusts to not smoking, your healthcare provider 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).
  • 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 10°C (50°F), so it may not be a good choice if you plan to use it outside during winter months in a cold climate.

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.

What should I watch for?

You may be getting too much nicotine if you have:

  • a fast heartbeat
  • nausea and vomiting
  • dizziness or weakness
  • fainting
  • sweating
  • blurry vision or trouble hearing
  • confusion
  • seizures

If you have any of these after taking the inhaler stop using it and see a doctor right away.

Side effects may include:

  • sore mouth
  • coughing
  • hiccups
  • dry mouth
  • stomachache

This may be because the inhaler wasn’t used in the right way. Please review how to use the inhaler.

Stop using this inhaler and see a doctor right away if you have an allergic reaction.

Allergic reaction symptoms may include:

  • very bad itching
  • hives
  • swelling in your mouth
  • a tight feeling in your chest
  • trouble breathing

Talk to your pharmacist about how quitting might affect other medicine you take. Your body may respond to some medicine differently once you stop using tobacco.

Some people have had suicidal thoughts when they try to quit smoking without medicines. Sometimes quitting smoking can lead to some mental health problems you already have, like depression, getting worse.

Before taking any quit-smoking treatment, tell your healthcare provider (doctor, pharmacist, or nurse):

  • if you’ve ever had depression or other mental health problems
  • about any symptoms or concerns you had other times you tried to quit smoking, with or without medicines

Related Information


Adaptation Date: 3/19/2021

Adapted By: Alberta Health Services

Adaptation Reviewed By: Alberta Health Services

Adapted with permission from copyrighted materials from Healthwise, Incorporated (Healthwise). This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty and is not responsible or liable for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.