Manufacturers of nicotine patches provide expiration dates on their products. The patches may begin to lose their potency after expiration, so a person should aim to use them before this date.

Nicotine is the main addictive chemical in tobacco. It causes a release of chemicals that stimulate parts of the brain, causing changes over time that can lead a person to feel they need to keep receiving nicotine. When they stop smoking, their brain needs time to adjust to the lack of nicotine. They may experience withdrawal symptoms and cravings during this time.

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), including nicotine patches, provides a controlled amount of nicotine to help reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms in people who are quitting smoking.

This article discusses whether nicotine patches expire, tips for using them, and when to speak with a doctor.

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Nicotine patches deliver a controlled amount of nicotine into the body through the skin. Typically, a person wears a nicotine patch for 24 hours.


Patches come in three strengths:

  • 7 milligrams (mg)
  • 14 mg
  • 21 mg

The dose a person starts with depends on how much they currently smoke. After about 8–12 weeks, a person lowers their dose and tapers down their patch use, with the goal of stopping entirely.

However, depending on the nicotine patch a person chooses and how often they smoke, the manufacturer may recommend they follow a different schedule to taper down. They may also recommend a person consults their doctor if they feel the need to use the patches for longer than 8 weeks to prevent smoking.

Learn more about other smoking cessation aids.


Nicotine patches have expiration dates printed on their packaging. Manufacturers guarantee the patches have the labeled dose or strength until their expiration date, typically a year after the manufacturing date.

Pharmaceutical manufacturers generally determine drug expiration dates by conducting product stability testing. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires pharmaceutical manufacturers to do this to support the assigned expiration date.

The patches may begin to lose their potency after expiration, so a person should aim to use them before this date.

Learn more about medications to help with quitting smoking.

Below are some useful tips on how to use nicotine patches correctly for efficacy and to reduce the likelihood of any side effects:

  • Start on the correct dose. People who typically smoke more than 10 cigarettes daily may consider starting on a 21 mg dose.
  • Wear the nicotine patch for 24 hours.
  • Place a fresh patch on a clean area of skin with little to no hair on the upper part of the body.
  • Avoid applying the patch on areas with irritated, scarred, oily, or damaged skin.
  • Rotate the sites of application to avoid skin irritation and avoid placing them in the same area more than once per week.
  • Do not cut the patches, as each one delivers a controlled amount of nicotine through the skin.
  • If the patch becomes loose or falls off, replace it with a new one.
  • Wash the hands with soap and water after applying the patch to remove any nicotine on the fingers.
  • Keep nicotine patches out of reach of children and pets. Even used patches may have enough nicotine to make them sick.

A healthcare professional can help a person decide which dose to start with and offer further advice about using nicotine patches correctly.

Read more about tips for quitting smoking.

Like other types of NRT, nicotine patches may cause side effects, including:

Some of these side effects, such as a rapid heartbeat, may indicate that a person’s nicotine patch dose is too high. They may need to stop wearing the patch and talk with their doctor about changing to a lower dose or a different NRT.

It is also important that people speak with a doctor about adjusting their nicotine patch dosage if they experience any nicotine withdrawal symptoms, which may indicate the dose is too low.

Doctors can play a crucial role in smoking cessation, and working with them may increase a person’s chances of quitting smoking permanently. According to a 2021 study, people who receive counseling and medications have a two-fold higher likelihood of quitting than those who do not.

Aside from prescribing the appropriate smoking cessation medications or forms of NRT that match a person’s needs, doctors may also do the following to help people quit:

  • provide brief counseling
  • connect people to other resources
  • provide continued support with follow-ups

Nicotine patches are a type of NRT that provide a controlled dose of nicotine through the skin. These patches have an expiration date that manufacturers print on the label.

Because of the potential loss of nicotine potency after the expiry date, manufacturers discourage people from using patches beyond this time. The expired patches may fail to provide the required nicotine dose to reduce withdrawal symptoms.

It is important to follow a healthcare professional’s instructions for using nicotine patches and consult them if any side effects occur. Doctors can provide further support to help people quit smoking.