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Smokefree Clinic

First-line treatments to quit smoking

To start your timeline to quit smoking, you’ll need to go through a smoking cessation journey first. First-line treatments to quit smoking are regulated approaches and pharmacotherapies that have been shown to be clinically effective.

Current forms of first-line treatments supported by the RACGP 1 include nicotine replacement therapy options and pharmacotherapy, as well as counselling support.

Quitting smoking is hard, and these methods can really help you. Only about three to five people in every 100 successfully quit after going “cold turkey” without any assistance. This can mess up your planned quitting smoking timeline without the right support.

Research has shown that these treatments, in combination with counselling, means people are three times more likely than a placebo of having stopped smoking six months down the track.2

There are many options to help you quit, along with new alternatives if these haven’t worked for you. Quitting smoking can be hard but you can do it.

Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)

Nicotine replacement therapy acts to provide your body with the nicotine, without the harmful effects of smoking tobacco.

There are over-the-counter forms of nicotine replacement therapy such as lozenges, patches, inhalators, mouth sprays and gum.

A combination of longer-acting NRT (patches) with faster-acting formats (lozenges, gum, sprays) is recommended as a first-line treatment to quit smoking.

This method of quitting smoking is considered suitable for most people, including teenagers, but check with your health professional before you begin your stop smoking timeline.


Pharmacotherapy to quit smoking has also been studied extensively and found to be effective and safe for most people.

These products, which include varenicline and bupropion, act on neurotransmitters in the brain to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

Research trials have found varenicline, known under the brand name Champix, to be effective in relieving the symptoms of craving and withdrawal. 3

Antidepressant bupropion, under the brand name Zyban, Wellbutrin or Alpenzin, is also effective to reduce cravings and withdrawal impacts and boosting your chance to stop smoking.

Like all pharmacotherapies, there can be side effects. Discuss these with your doctor to determine the best approach for you. 

Counselling and behavioural therapy

Counselling and behaviour therapy can help you overcome some of your psychological dependence on smoking and break the habit for good.

These include assistance from services such as Australia’s long-running Quitline, a telephone hotline to quit-smoking advisers. 

Counselling can help you to prepare to quit and what hurdles to be aware of when you do. Health professionals also help you know what happens after you quit smoking and come up with a timeline.

Together you can come up with strategies to overcome cravings and triggers during the timeline after you quit smoking. This could be delaying that cigarette, avoiding social situations where you might normally smoke, deep breathing or going for a walk.

For women who are pregnant and want to quit smoking, counselling is the recommended first-line approach.



2Cahill K, Stevens S, Perera R, Lancaster T. Pharmacological interventions for smoking cessation: An overview and network meta-analysis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2013;(5):CD009329.