HSE to provide free Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)

By Maeve O'Keeffe Policy News   |   22nd Feb 2023

On National No Smoking Day the  HSE has announced that it will provide free nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) to help smokers quit  

Today (Wednesday, 22nd of February 2023) is National No Smoking Day, and the HSE has announced that a range of  nicotine replacement therapies  (NRT) will be free of charge from local stop smoking clinics. The free NRT is  being rolled out as part of a package of supports on offer to people who quit smoking through the HSE QUIT service.


Almost 1 in 5 (18%) of people of in Ireland smoke, according to the most recent Healthy Ireland surveyThe prevalence of smoking has not declined in Ireland since 2019, and it is hoped that access to free NRT will help more people across the country quit smoking.


NRT are licensed medicines that double a smoker’s chances of quitting for good by helping them  deal with the  cravings and withdrawal symptoms that can accompany quitting.


Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your heart as smoking is a major risk factor for both heart disease and stroke.

Once you stop smoking, your mental and physical health improves immediately. After one year, your risk of having a heart attack is cut to half that of a smoker. A smoker is twice as likely to suffer a heart attack as a non-smoker.

Mark Murphy, Advocacy Officer with the Irish Heart Foundation, welcomed the HSE’s decision to provide free NRT, saying, “Quitting smoking is the best step you can do to improve your health, so in that sense, it is never too late to stop smoking. Tragically, over 4,500 people die each year in Ireland from tobacco-related diseases so the decision by the HSE to provide free NRT is strongly welcomed. Using NRT doubles your chances of quitting so we would encourage all those seeking to quit cigarettes once and for all to seek out the support there and put smoking behind them for a healthier, happier life.”


Dr Paul Kavanagh, HSE Public Health Medicine Lead with the Tobacco Free Ireland Programme explained that NRT work by helping people overcome nicotine addiction safely, without the harmful tar and carbon monoxide that can be found in tobacco smoke.


“We sometimes talk about smoking as a choice, but the reality is that it is an addiction.   Nicotine makes cigarettes addictive and hard to give up. You will double your chances of quitting for good if you get support from QUIT.ie and use NRT, which is now provided free from local stop smoking clinics,” he said.


In signing up to quit smoking through the HSE QUIT service, you not only get access to free NRT, but will also be provided with “encouragement, emotional and behavioural support available from HSE Stop Smoking Advisor,”  Dr Kavanagh added.

" It is never too late to stop smoking."

Mark Murphy, Irish Heart Foundation

A GP or doctor referral is not needed to sign up for the personalised quit plan provided by the HSE QUIT service.


Martina Blake, National Lead, for the HSE Tobacco Free Ireland Programme outlined the steps to avail of the service, “There are over 60 Stop Smoking Advisors based around the country to support anyone who wants to quit smoking. You do not need to be referred by your GP or doctor. Visit QUIT.ie from the HSE to find a list of clinics near you or call 1800 201 203 and we’ll put you in touch with your local clinic. You can arrange a face-to-face appointment or a phone appointment.”


In a one-to-one session, HSE QUIT advisors will assess your nicotine addiction, identify your reasons for quitting, discuss your best options for NRT and create a personal plan to help you quit smoking for good. If you join the HSE stop smoking programme your local advisor will arrange for you to access NRT through your GP or your nearest participating pharmacy. Your advisor will keep in touch with you weekly for the first 6 weeks after you quit and periodically for up to 12 months to help and support you.



NRT can come in a variety of forms, including patches, gums, lozenges, inhalers, and mouth sprays. According to Dr Kavanagh, NRT can “often work best when you combine them together in a way that suits you. For example, use a long-acting patch combined with a short-acting nicotine mouth spray or lozenge.”


It is not easy to quit, but stopping smoking is the single most important step you can take to live longer and it greatly reduces your risk of heart disease and stroke. Visit QUIT.ie for more information. You can also find more information on quitting smoking here.


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