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Tapping the power of pharmacists to decrease smoking

Posted 6 Feb, 2018

Quit Victoria and the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) Victorian Branch are today joining forces to tap into the power of pharmacists to increase the number of people quitting successfully.

  1. Only 10% of surveyed pharmacists (n=58) report customers ‘often’ asking about quitting

  2. Ninety percent of pharmacists surveyed said they succeeded in their efforts to influence a person’s smoking

Quit Victoria and the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) Victorian Branch are today joining forces to tap into the power of pharmacists to increase the number of people quitting successfully. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in Victoria, and 80% of smokers report wanting to kick their deadly addiction. However, fewer than one in five use therapies that have been proven to help people quit.

“Pharmacists are highly respected in the community and could play an even bigger role in helping smokers to quit,” said Director of Quit Victoria Dr Sarah White. “International research has shown there are good strategies for improving quitting conversations, such as displaying resources to trigger interested customers to inquire about quitting methods. This partnership has been designed to not only provide pharmacists with new tools to help their customers, but also to alert customers that pharmacists have a lot to offer when it comes to increasing the chances they can quit successfully.”

PSA Victorian Branch President Ben Marchant said the partnership with Quit Victoria would assist pharmacists across Victoria to provide even better care and advice. “A lot of patients don’t understand that some prescription medications and some common health conditions, such as diabetes or wound healing, are adversely affected by tobacco use. This focus on the pharmacist’s role in quitting will help patients understand why it is so critical pharmacists ask about smoking, and demonstrate how pharmacists can do so much more than simply hand over patches or gum.” 

Quit Victoria and PSA recently surveyed pharmacists and found that almost 90% felt they have succeeded in their efforts to influence a person’s smoking, but their advice is often not sought by their customers. “Pharmacists are frontline primary health professionals who have firsthand experience and knowledge of the impact of smoking on health, but only 10% of pharmacists report customers ‘often’ asking about quitting,” said Dr White. “We’d like to see the number of those supportive, powerful conversations in the pharmacy increasing substantially.”

The survey of pharmacists also revealed:

  • 90% of pharmacists believe supporting smokers to quit is part of their job as they are in an ideal position to give smokers the practical, evidence-based information they need to quit for good.

  • Pharmacists decide to provide customers who smoke tobacco with assistance to stop smoking primarily if the customer requests it (95%), is purchasing smoking cessation products (95%) or if the customer has a smoking-related illness (78%).

  • Six in 10 pharmacists say a public education campaign encouraging people who smoke to talk to their pharmacist would make them more likely to approach customers with quitting advice.

The partnership will include:

  • Co-development of in-pharmacy materials such as signage, information and referral mechanism with pharmacists

  • Free training across metro and regional Victoria – for CPD (Group 2 with potential to upgrade to Group 3) commencing in June

  • Public education campaign to encourage consumers to talk to their pharmacist about quitting.

PSA is the peak national professional pharmacy organisation representing Australia’s 30,000 pharmacists working in all sectors and across all locations.

Quit Victoria is a partnership between VicHealth, Cancer Council Victoria, the State Government of Victoria and the Heart Foundation.

About the survey: In January 2018 Quit Victoria asked 58 Victorian pharmacists about their attitudes, perceptions and behaviours towards discussing quitting smoking with customers via an online survey.

Media release

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