Clinical tips: quitting smoking

quit smoking: rows of cigarettes with one broken

Quitting smoking can be an arduous process, and pharmacists can provide invaluable advice, writes Karalyn Huxhagen

The Australian Association of Smoking Cessation Professionals has a website with invaluable tips and tools to assist pharmacists to support GPs who initiate smoking cessation programs with their patients.

The algorithms they have produced are very handy tools for all pharmacists to use. If you ever have the chance to attend one of their training programs I would definitely recommend it.

The advertising “every cigarette is doing you damage” brought home to patients a reality that has impacted the smoking rates, especially in the group of children aged 12—17 years.

Pharmacists have a role in:

  • reinforcing the advertising messages;
  • providing counselling;
  • providing pertinent information about risk factors and management of chronic health conditions;
  • providing products to assist with quitting to smoke;
  • providing advice about alternatives to cigarette smoking e.g. e-cigarettes;
  • discussing alternative therapies to assist with quitting e.g. acupuncture, hypnosis; and
  • reinforcing to the patient that having to restart the smoking cessation programs is not a sign of failure but is a sign that there is a commitment to achieve this goal.

There is a lot of misinformation about smoking cessation including misinformation about the safety of products such as Zyban and Champix.

All medications come with risks and concerns and with appropriate time taken to counsel and inform the patient the adherence rates are likey to improve. Formulating a quit plan with the customer and providing them with targets and support will improve the quitting outcome.

Some patients will return many months later and be back on the cigarettes. It is important not to frown and be judgemental but to encourage the patient to try again and reinforce the positive message that they have achieved a quit stage before so it can be achieved again.

The tax on cigarettes is fairly certain to rise with the new budget. Of course this is dependent on who wins at the election but my personal opinion is whoever is in government will raise the tobacco tax.

Smoking cessation products and support services should be a core part of the pharmacy.

Presentation and layout should prompt the customer to ask about smoking cessation.

You may strategically place support material in other locations e.g. sleep apnoea , diabetes, asthma. The co-location may trigger the customer to remember the GPs words about risk factors for management of their overall health outcomes.

During every counselling session never be afraid to ask the patient, “Do you smoke?” This question should be a regular occurrence between patient and pharmacist.

There are many tools and adjunct available to assist customers to quit smoking. Please ensure your pharmacy clearly gives the message that you are able to provide this service to the customer.


Karalyn Huxhagen is a community pharmacist and was 2010 Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Pharmacist of the Year. She has been named winner of the 2015 PSA Award for Quality Use of Medicines in Pain Management and is group facilitator of the Mackay Pain Support Group.

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