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Pharmacists help patients succeed in kicking the habit


Chris Oliveiro wants to help people kick the tobacco habit. His efforts aren’t going up in smoke. “Yes, we are making an impact,” says the pharmacist/owner of Springdale Pharmacy in Brampton, Ont. “I’ve received many words of thanks from spouses and children of smokers who are grateful that their parent has quit smoking. This is why smoking cessation services are essential in my pharmacy.”

His pharmacy's smoking cessation program involves one-on-one consultations, follow-up appointments, and individualized therapies including nicotine replacement therapy and prescription medications like Champix and Zyban.

On May 31, 2018 the Government of Canada announced Canada’s Tobacco Strategy, which aims to reduce tobacco use to less than 5% by 2035. Approximately half of Canadian smokers make at least one quit attempt per year.

In helping smokers halt their habit, pharmacists are well placed to offer strategies and ongoing support, says Jane Ling R.Ph., BScPhm., president of Pharmacists for a Smoke Free Canada and CEASE (Central East Association for Smoking Elimination). She often speaks on smoking cessation at professional conferences and pharmacy schools across the country. “We explain what pharmacists should know about tobacco addictions and the different methods to quit,” she says. “The smoking cessation category is crucial to growing their pharmacy practice.”

According to a 2019 white paper by the University of Waterloo School of Pharmacy, "...research shows that smoking cessation is more likely with advice from a healthcare professional and when behavioural support and pharmacotherapy are used in combination. As the gatekeepers of and experts on pharmacotherapy, pharmacists will play a pivotal role in helping Canada achieve this ambitious target by 2035."

Quit aids are a big part of the category

According to numbers from the University of Waterloo:

Two-thirds of smokers who attempted to quit in the past two years used some form of cessation assistance. 

  • 30.8% used nicotine replacement therapy.
  • 14.7% used stop-smoking medications such as Zyban, Wellbutrin, or Champix.
  • One-third (32.4%) used e-cigarettes.
  • Nearly one-quarter (23.2%) “made a deal with friends or family to quit smoking together.”
  • Approximately 7% used a telephone quitline.

As the most accessible and highly trusted healthcare professionals, pharmacists can rightly take credit for much of the decline in patients' smoking. Increasingly, patients are turning to them to help on their quit journey.

Guylaine Lessard, a Kirkland, Québec-based pharmacist and field medical advisor team lead with Pfizer Canada (the maker of Champix), reinforces the importance of pharmacists counselling their patients on smoking cessation.

“The patient can now also elect to gradually reduce smoking during the first 12 weeks of treatment such as 50% reduction or more by four weeks of treatment, 75% or more by eight weeks, to reach 100% by 12 weeks. Patients who follow this gradual quit approach to setting a quit date should be treated with Champix for 24 weeks.”

Whatever the approach and tools, pharmacist Chris Oliveiro believes it’s a total team effort to promote smoking cessation. “I inform my staff pharmacists to ask the smoking status of all patients where appropriate. I feel that it is my duty as a caring health professional to help these patients quit smoking.”

Do you run a successful smoking cessation clinic in your pharmacy? If so, we'd like to hear from you. Email us: [email protected]

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