Pharmacy deserves credit for the role it is playing in helping people to stop smoking

Our head of services Anna Ruthven talks about how community pharmacy is continuing to lead the fight against smoking:

It’s strange to think that in very recent memory it was perfectly legal to smoke in a public place. Our pubs, train stations, football grounds and shopping centres were full of harmful cigarette fumes. Fast forward to today and we’re now celebrating the fact that the number of adult smokers in the UK has decreased once again.

According to figures released by NHS Digital this month, the total number of smokers in this country has dropped from 7.7 million in 2011 to just 5.9 million. This is a fantastic result and shows exactly what can be achieved when the healthcare industry unites behind a common goal. It’s often forgotten just how big of a role community pharmacy has played in helping to get to this point, but we know that smoking is still the largest cause of cancer in the UK, so there’s even more we can do.

Public Health England (PHE) suggests that people who smoke are four times more likely to stop if they have access to support, rather than trying to do it alone. So much of that support is available in your community, at your local pharmacy.

At LloydsPharmacy, we provide a smoking cessation service at over 500 of our stores across the country. This means that customers can get 1-2-1 stop smoking behavioural support from one of our specially trained advisors. We also deliver a nicotine replacement therapy service up and running in 300 of our stores, and we supply Champix through 100 more.

The Government has announced recently their ambition to ‘stamp out smoking’ by 2030, but there is still a long way to go to make that vision a reality. Our pharmacy teams have really strong, trusting relationships with many of their patients, which means they are ideally placed to provide advice and guidance around the health implications of risky lifestyle behaviours like smoking.

Each of our stores has their own ‘Healthy Living Pharmacy Zones’ where teams can display useful health-related information and signpost customers to services that can help them better manage their health. These zones come in really handy when it comes to supporting Public Health England campaigns and initiatives like Stoptober. Our colleagues take great pride in these displays areas and they can be a powerful tool to start conversations.

We also have a range of products that customers can access over the counter, designed to help them take control of their habits. Things like nicotine patches and vaping products can be used as a means of starting the quitting process. In fact, PHE have suggested that “the greatest quit success is among those who combine using an e-cigarette with support from a local stop smoking service.” Alternatively, we also provide a full range of Nicotine gum, Lozenges and alternative solutions like mouth and nasal sprays from market leading brands like Niqutin and Nicorette.

There’s loads more than can be done if we are to win the battle against smoking and I believe community pharmacy should remain at the forefront of this effort. Hopefully when we look back in 2030, the idea of anyone smoking will feel equally as strange as the thought of those smoke-filled pubs from 15 years ago.