Quit for Good

If you read the 2020 Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking Cessation, you’ll learn approximately 34,200,000 Americans smoke and about 22,700,000 try to quit each year.

You might not be able to change the lives of 23 million people, but if you read this much shorter report, you’ll learn how you might improve the life of at least one of your patients.

Proper medications and counseling support are two major factors playing into a patient’s smoking cessation success. As a community pharmacist, you’re in a perfect position to deliver both while getting reimbursed—as about 26% of your fellow independent practitioners currently do, according to the National Community Pharmacists Association Digest.

It’s not that complicated to start a program. Follow these five steps to help your patients—and your profits.

Pick your patients

Start by identifying patients who would benefit from your program and who already use your pharmacy. Pay special attention to patients who are picking up prescriptions or items that might relate to a smoking-related illness. Chat with them about the dangers of smoking and the benefits they’ll experience by quitting. Then, tell them about your program and ask to send them relevant information, using bag stuffers, counter cards, and emails.

The evidence is clear—it doesn’t matter how old they are or how long they’ve been smoking—kicking the habit will almost immediately improve their health.

Follow best practices

A “belt-and-suspenders” attitude works best. For example, research shows that using a combination of nicotine replacement therapies produces the best results, specifically cessation medication and behavioral counseling.

Using more than one medication can also help your patients. A patch will deliver a steady stream of nicotine while gum or lozenges act much faster. Used together, they will reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms throughout the day.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one non-nicotine medication is especially effective. Varenicline (brand name is Chantix) provides the strongest chance of successful cessation of any medication by targeting the same parts of the brain stimulated by smoking, effectively blocking nicotine receptors.

Tell your patients to spend their money on tried-and-true medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration and to avoid any quack remedies or flimflam scams.

Gather resources

Most insurance plans cover prescription or OTC meds, sponsor helpful programs, and offer incentives to quit. If your patient is under- or uninsured, check for special programs or discounts sponsored by your county, city, or state. Hospitals, faith-based organizations, and veteran-support groups may also offer free classes and support.

The NCPA and the American Pharmaceutical Association (APhA) are valuable sources for you. You’ll find a variety of materials as well as continuing education workshops and classes focused on treating patients trying to kick their tobacco habit.

Promote your program

You have your pick of free resources to support your new cessation program. Visit cdc.gov to learn about the Tips From Former Smokers® campaign, which offers extensive information as well as free brochures, posters, and videos, ads, and content you can use on your website or social-media channels. The information is available in different languages and is accessible for people with disabilities.

Reach out to area physicians, and don’t forget dentists, nurse practitioners, mental health counselors, and other healthcare professionals.

Provide ongoing support

Tobacco dependence is a chronic, relapsing condition. Act as a coach, assisting with different dosages or medications. Share options for classes, one-on-one counseling, and support groups. If you have multiple patients trying to quit, share their names so they might trade tips (absolutely get their permission first). 1.800.QUIT.NOW is a national portal to a network of state quitlines. Sponsored and funded by both the CDC and the National Cancer Institute, the line has received more than 10 million calls since 2004.

Smoking cessation is a marathon, not a sprint. Perhaps your most important role is to offer your patients encouragement, understanding, and empathy.

Smokers Want to Quit

  • Nearly 70% of adults who smoke say they want to quit.
  • More than 50% of adults who smoke try to quit each year.
  • More than 40% of adults who smoke do not receive advice to quit from a healthcare professional.
  • Fewer than one in three
    adults who smoke use cessation counseling or FDA-approved medication when trying to quit.
  • Fewer than one in 10 adults successfully quit smoking each year.

(2020 Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking Cessation)

Do E-Cigarettes Help?

“It is difficult to make generalizations about efficacy for cessation based on clinical trials involving a particular e-cigarette, and there is presently inadequate evidence to conclude that e-cigarettes, in general, increase smoking cessation.”

(2020 Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking Cessation)

5 Facts About Vaping

  1. Vaping is less harmful than smoking, but
    it’s still not safe.
  2. Research suggests vaping is bad for your heart and lungs.
  3. Electronic cigarettes are just as addictive
    as traditional ones.
  4. Electronic cigarettes aren’t the best
    smoking cessation tool.
  5. A new generation is getting hooked
    on nicotine.

(Source: Johns Hopkins Medicine)

From the Magazine

This article was published in our quarterly print magazine, which covers relevant topics in greater depth featuring leading experts in the industry. Subscribe to receive the quarterly print issue in your mailbox. All registered independent pharmacies in the U.S. are eligible to receive a free subscription.

More articles from the June 2023 issue:

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