No butts about it, more chains helping patients kick habit


Smoking cessation. Efforts to get chains to stop selling cigarettes.



No butts about it, more chains helping patients kick habit

Smokers who have been buying cigarettes at 37 Leader Pharmacies in California will no longer be able to make a tobacco purchase at these drugstores, thanks to The California Medical Association Foundation. The organization has enlisted these pharmacies in Prescription for Change (PFC), a project whose goal is to eliminate tobacco promotions and sales in California pharmacies.

Anderson Bros. is the latest Leader pharmacy to participate in the project, which was funded through the California Department of Health Services—Tobacco Control Section. It completed its grant term on June 30, 2003.

Yet another entity, The Berkeley Tobacco Prevention Coalition, is trying to get a pharmacy chain to stop selling cigarettes. The group has launched the C.O.O.L. (Cigarettes Out of Longs) campaign, targeting Longs Drug Stores, Walnut Creek, Calif.

Ron Freund, VP of The Social Equity Group, a Berkeley, Calif., private investment advisory firm that is the business representative of the coalition, is coordinating the C.O.O.L. campaign. Noting that several shareholders of Longs have endorsed the campaign, Freund told Drug Topics, "The reason we picked Longs is that it has a historic commitment to working with and being sensitive to the community. We felt it would be the most responsive."

Emphasizing that his background includes working on corporate responsibility issues, Freund said, "Many of my clients are investors in Longs, and they have now joined the campaign."

David Fong, senior VP of pharmacy at Longs, told Drug Topics, "We are exploring ways to deliver a better healthcare message to customers and communities regarding the use of tobacco—whether it's promoting smoking cessation products or other measures. We are just exploring at this point."

According to Fong, one of the stores in the chain brought in a resident from the University of California at San Francisco School of Pharmacy to educate patients on smoking cessation. In addition, Longs is working with UCSF to develop an educational program on smoking cessation for its pharmacists.

At Longs' annual stockholders meeting May 20, 2003, Longs president/CEO Warren Bryant pointed out that as a result of meetings last year between Freund's group and Longs, the chain "actually did come up with an eight-point program to encourage tobacco use cessation in the general community."

That smokers need all the help they can get to quit the habit is evidenced in a recent study by researchers in the United Kingdom and published in The British Medical Journal. The study found that about half the people who manage to stop smoking for one year after using nicotine patches eventually start smoking again.

Researchers revisited a group of people who had tried to quit smoking eight years prior, during a study of the benefits of nicotine replacement therapy. In the original study, only 9% were able to stop smoking for one year, and the UK investigators discovered that around half had begun lighting up once again during the following eight years. As a result, only 5% of the people who participated in the original study succeeded in butting out for good.

Yet another study, conducted by researchers at St. George's Hospital Medical School, University of London, showed that smokers trying to quit are more likely to experience a relapse in the afternoon or evening.

The study tracked 200 smokers of all ages who were using Pfizer's Nicotrol Step-down Patch. In the study, published in the British journal Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental, only 7% of the relapses occurred during the 12-hour period between midnight and noon, while 93% of the relapses occurred in the remaining 12 hours, during the afternoon and evening.

In a separate but related development, Fédération Internationale Pharmaceutique (FIP), the International Pharmaceutical Federation, recently took a strong stand in favor of the treatment of tobacco dependence at the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control at the World Health Assembly in Geneva.

A.J.M. (Ton) Hoek, general secretary of FIP, pointed out that "pharmacists, physicians, and nurses are alarmed at the increasing and widespread use of tobacco products that annually kills five million people and is causing a huge burden of disease, disability, and premature death."

Hoek expressed disappointment that the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control did not include a total ban on cigarette advertising. He had called upon the World Health Organization to implement strict regulations related to tobacco advertising and secondhand smoke in public places to protect public health.

Hoek stated, "We urge acceptance and action on the treatment of tobacco dependence within the national health care—in particular, improved access to effective interventions, including behavioral and pharmacological treatments."

Sandra Levy


Sandra Levy. No butts about it, more chains helping patients kick habit. Drug Topics Aug. 4, 2003;147:54.

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