UK Clinical Pharmacy Association


Issues for surgery

Risk of smoking relapse if omitted.

Risk of withdrawal symptoms if omitted (see Further information).

Advice in the perioperative period

Elective and emergency surgery 


If recently commenced check if any of the patient’s other medicines will be affected by smoking cessation and require dose adjustments (see Further information).

Post-operative advice

Restart post-operatively as soon as next dose is due.

Monitor renal function – dose reduction may be necessary if renal function is impaired (consult current product literature).

Interactions with common anaesthetic agents

None specifically listed.

Seizure threshold

Clinical trials and post-marketing experience note some reports of seizures in patients with or without a history of seizures given varenicline; manufacturers advise use with caution in conditions that potentially lower seizure threshold. Concurrent use with medicines that also lower the seizure threshold (e.g. anaesthetic agents, tramadol) may have an additive effect on the risk of seizure.

Interactions with other common medicines used in the perioperative period


Further information


Risk of relapse, irritability, depression and insomnia have been noted on discontinuation at the end of the 12-week treatment course; manufacturer advises dose tapering may be necessary. Sudden pre-operative cessation could be anticipated to have similar effects. 

Smoking cessation

Quitting smoking pre-operatively improves surgical outcomes through reducing risk of post-operative complications. Pre-operative initiation of varenicline was found to increase abstinence from smoking at three, six and twelve months after elective non-cardiac surgery with no increase in serious adverse events.

However, if a patient decides to quit smoking during the perioperative period it must be remembered that smoking cessation can reduce clearance of some medicines due to tobacco’s effect on CYP1A2 (potential for increased plasma levels) – dosage adjustments and / or close monitoring are likely to be necessary with CYP1A2 substrates including agomelatine, clozapine, duloxetine, olanzapine, ropinirole and theophylline (consult current product literature).


Joint Formulary Committee. British National Formulary (online) London: BMJ Group and Pharmaceutical Press. [Accessed on 5th November 2020]

Summary of Product Characteristics – Champix® (varenicline) 1mg film-coated tablets. Pfizer Limited. Accessed via 5/11/2020 [date of revision of the text July 2019]

Baxter K, Preston CL (eds), Stockley’s Drug Interactions (online) London: Pharmaceutical Press. [Accessed on 5th November 2020]

Faculty of Public Health, The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, The Royal College of Anaesthetists, ash (action on smoking and health). Joint Briefing: Smoking and surgery. April 2016. Available at [Accessed on 5th November 2020]

 Wong J. Abrishami A. Yang Y et al. A Perioperative Smoking Cessation Intervention with Varenicline: A Double-blind, Randomized, Placebo-controlled Trial. Anesthesiology 2012; 117:755-764