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So a funny thing happens when you quit smoking. While you may have stopped the physical act of inhaling cigarette smoke in order to feel the effects of nicotine, your body is still addicted to the stimulant.

Nicotine Replacement Therapies, or NRTs, are patches, gum, lozenges and, increasingly, e-cigarette water vapor devices, that are meant to wean the smoker off of nicotine. This is old news, obviously. But to me, two years after quitting smoking, the need for nicotine is my daily headline. I cannot quit the nic.

I tried the patch, and it gave me the type of nervous energy – paranoia, really – and cold clamminess of a serial shoplifter, always poised to walk through the security sensor exits. The gum worked okay. But then I Googled what can happen to your masseter muscles if you chew too much, and that was the end of that. Sucking on a regular sized Nicotine lozenge feels like harboring a chalky gumball criminal in my cheek.

The NRT that really got me, and it still has me, is the Nicorette Mini-Lozenge. It’s Tic-Tac small, discrete, and dissolves quickly. And, unlike its generic counterparts, Nicorette’s brand has what I can only describe as a “satisfying burn,” the familiar discomfort reminiscent of smoking a cigarette. The mini-lozenges were the only thing that got me to stop smoking for good. I don’t want to start smoking again, so I’m staying on them for now.

Other people have discovered the joys of the Nicorette mini-lozenge, too. So much so that they’re very hard to find these days. They’re no longer sold on popular online retailers, like Amazon, Target or And you can’t find them in stores in New York City. On a recent Saturday I took what I called a “long walk,” but was really an OTC drug run through Manhattan, from CVSs to Duane Reades, and back again. I went into eight different places before I finally found a pharmacist who had one pack of the 4 mg Nicorette mini-lozenges, hidden away behind the counter. “There have been supply problems,” she said. You don’t say!



The Nicorette company, owned by GlaxoSmithKline, is a behemoth. The Nicorette brand has been around for some 20 years. Their product has, according to them, helped millions of people quit smoking.

Despite the client base, the Nicorette company is very bad  at communicating with their customers, many of whom are woefully dependent on their products. Nicorette’s slogan, “Quit on Your Own Terms,” is a nice bit of inspirado. But, if you’re switching out one form of nicotine with another in order to quit smoking, you’re really quitting on Nicotine’s – or Nicorette’s – Terms.

Nicorette doesn’t have a general Facebook page, with the exception of Nicorette India. Nicorette’s verified Twitter account’s last tweet? February 5th, about CVS’s decision to stop carrying cigarettes. Their last interaction with Twitter users was February 6th. But, like with most products these days, users feel a need, and increasingly an expectation, to communicate with brands online. Particularly ones where they’re dependent on the product.

Search Twitter for Tweets to Nicorette, and you see that even though Nicorette has stopped interacting with its users, users haven’t stopped  asking questions that require answers.






Aside from my pharmacist friend’s comment that Nicorette’s having supply problems, whenever I searched online for any information about Nicorette from the company, I came up empty. No info from Nicorette. No answers from other people experiencing the same problems. That was until earlier this week, when I came across Nicorette South Africa’s website.

On the homepage of the website, you’ll see the notice that: “Please note that information in this website is intended for residents of South Africa only.” Trouble is the Internet is international. Fine to issue that declaimer, but people who want information – especially about a drug they’re relying on -- will go anywhere online to get it.

I was reading through this South Africa FAQ section, expecting it to be a standard FAQ section - how to use the product etc. - when I realized that all of the questions were user submitted. The answers are supplied by a not-totally-great English writer, a doctor by the name of "Dr. John." The answers are written like a Nigerian email scammer wrote them. 

How to stop smoking?

Dear Enquirer - quitting smoking is as challenging an endeavour as trying to quit any other drug of addiction/abuse - so DETERMINATION TO QUIT is number 1 on the list -- this determination must be fed by the knowledge that every drag on a cigarette pulls more than 4700 known toxins into your body - and at least 60 of these are carcinogens !! Number 2 on the list is to tell all your friends that you are quitting - and this helps to oblige you to get clean; number 3 is that you'll find help on the Nicorette website as to the role of nicotine replacement to assist in breaking free from the thousands of toxins in cigarette smoke. Then 4, internet has many helpful sites for quitting smoking - examine some of these. BUT do realise that you'll do your health and your finances a vast benefit by quitting poisoning yourself with cigarette smoke. Every best wish - dr. john.


Fine, how to stop smoking. Makes sense in the FAQ section for Nicorette. The response is weird, but fine. But then the seriousness of the questions, and the lack of help in the responses, got very, very bleak.


Hi DR John i just resently found out that im pregnant, will it be safe to use the patches to quit during this period? what are the effect to the baby if i continue to smoke while pregnant ?

Dear Lady - Thank you for your enquiries. Let me attempt to provide some responses that may be helpful to you. FIRSTLY - and most importantly: please realise that every drag on a cigarette draws more than 4700 known toxins into your body - and if pregnant, your developing baby gets these too !! Do PLEASE open & peruse this internet site for more information: SECONDLY: there are no Nicorette patches currently available, and there will not be for several months at least; we await approval by the Medicines Control Council for new ‘Invisi-Patches’, but meanwhile all stock of the original patches has been totally sold out! The only Nicotine replacement that we can offer currently is the Nicorette Gum. However, we may not recommend the use of Nicotine Replacement medications during pregnancy/lactation by virtue of the regulations of the Medicines Control Council !! However your GP or your Obstetrician-Gynaecologist may certainly prescribe Nicotine Replacement medications for you to use (this could include the nicotine-only e-cigarette). I'm sure you believe, as I do, that no one is entitled to poison anyone else. You may be choosing to poison yourself with smoking but are you entitled to poison anyone else, particularly a new Life ?? So please discuss this matter urgently with your responsible healthcare practitioner! With every best wish to You and your new Baby - yours truly - dr. john..

can you use Nicorette quickmist if you have had a mild stroke in the last 3 months,mine was last Sunday

Dear Enquirer - Thank you for this enquiry - but as there is no Nicorette Quickmist available in South Africa -- [which is where your enquiry eventuated] -- I can but comment that if you can smoke after having had a stroke, then getting rid of the known more than 4700 toxins in tobacco smoke, must make the nicotine replacement medication mightily safer than smoking !! Do discuss with your own medical practitioner with regard to this matter - as stroke victims are always on fine knife-edge !! With every best wish - dr. john - for Johnson & Johnson In Cape Town, South Africa.


And then, there was this:


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Hi - and thank you for your comments. Best wishes - dr. john


Dr. John has many answers, but probably not the ones that the Nicorette company wants to rise to the top, just by virtue of the fact that they’re putting out no other communications to the public.  Of all companies, you’d think that one founded on the issue of breaking  addiction would have a communications strategy that, well, communicates. Particularly at a time where there’s a lot of public health attention focused on stopping smoking.

The Nicorette Mini Lozenge shortage has been going on in the New England region for the past three months, in my expert estimation. I’m whittling away at my supply. It’s become an “is it Sponge Worthy?” situation every time I think about having one. Soon I’ll be out, and I promised myself I wouldn’t buy any more packages from Ebay. I’ve stopped smoking but I’m still addicted to the cure.