Magazine article Drug Topics

Pharmacists Viewed as the Key to Smoking Cessation

Magazine article Drug Topics

Pharmacists Viewed as the Key to Smoking Cessation

Article excerpt

While smoking is America's No. 1 public health problem, it's also an opportunity for pharmacists. Those who start smoking cessation programs can not only help reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with the country's most popular addiction but boost their bottom line as well.

"Close to 500,000 people in North America die every year because of tobacco," said pharmacist Robert Fay, director of consumer affairs for the Pharmacy Council on Tobacco Dependence. "As the most trusted professionals in any industry, pharmacists are in the right place at the right time to help America's 46 million surviving smokers quit."

Fay told the Seventh International Public Health Pharmacy Issues Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, that about 21,000 pharmacies across the United States have stopped selling tobacco products. But another 31,000 U.S. stores still carry tobacco-a fact, Fay said, that astounds pharmacists from much of the rest of the world.

Terence Maguire, who owns two pharmacies in Belfast, Northern Ireland, agreed. Professional standards and government regulations prohibit pharmacies in Europe from selling any form of tobacco, he said.

A growing number of independent pharmacy owners in this country have gone a step further, Fay added. Spurred by smoking cessation certification programs at the University of Pittsburgh, Mercer University, and the University of Washington, pharmacies are expanding into smoking cessation programs. Nearly all of the pharmacybased programs, he added, are forprofit ventures.

For now, pharmacists either bill thirdparty payers, many of whom are willing to accept smoking cessation counseling as a reimbursable professional service, or bill patients directly. The tobacco industry's recent admission that its product is both addictive and harmful has opened up a third potential source of revenue-tobacco companies themselves.

The state of Florida, Fay reported, has already earmarked $250 million of its $13 billion settlement with tobacco companies for public education programs, including programs on smoking cessation. …

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