Retail pharmacists can help smokers kick the habit

May 8, 2012

The percentage of Americans who are able to quit smoking has decreased over the past 2 decades, according to a new report, but retail pharmacists can play a key role in reversing that trend, one of the leaders of a team of tobacco researchers told Drug Topics.

The percentage of Americans who are able to quit smoking has decreased over the past 2 decades, according to a new report, but retail pharmacists can play a key role in reversing that trend, one of the leaders of a team of tobacco researchers told Drug Topics.

“Clearly, they have over-the-counter medications that provide an opportunity to market products and there is the advice that they can give when a person is picking up a prescription,” said John P. Pierce, PhD, professor of Family and Preventive Medicine and director of Population Sciences at the University of California, UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center.

“For me, the key is to emphasize that these products work best when used as part of a major effort on the part of the individual to change behavior,” he added in an email.  “Unless the person enters the quit attempt with a strong commitment to do everything that they can to stay off cigarettes, then they are unlikely to be successful. The products can be very helpful when used by a highly motivated person."

Pierce and his colleagues reported in the 2012 edition of the Annual Review of Public Health that more people in the United States are trying to quit smoking. However, he said in a news release that “the proportion of people who become successful quitters has gone down.”

That result is despite improvements in pharmaceutical medications to aid cessation, and the availability of free telephone cessation coaching in every state, according to the news release.

Devices such as gums and the patch and even prescriptions aren’t enough on their own, the report indicated.

“Recent evidence suggests that part of the problem may lie in how cessation aids are marketed by pharmaceutical companies: Many such ads suggest that quitting smoking may be as simple as putting on a patch,” according to the news release. “It appears that younger smokers in particular are now more likely to underestimate the amount of work needed in order to quit smoking successfully.”

The report acknowledges that the majority of smokers who quit successfully still do so without assistance. “However, current national policy discourages unassisted quitting, advising clinicians to make sure smokers who want to quit do so with pharmaceutical assistance,” the report said. “This policy may undermine smokers’ belief in their ability to quit on their own.”

The researchers suggest that policymakers join those in academia for a serious review of tobacco cessation policy.

Funding support for the study was provided by the Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program.