All community pharmacies should embrace the Stoptober campaign and encourage people to stop smoking and kick the habit for good, says Leanne Beverley

I can’t believe we are almost in October already – this year has gone unbelievably fast. For most community pharmacies, October means just one thing: Stoptober.

At Monarch Pharmacy we tend to see the largest surge of people who want to stop smoking in January when new year’s resolutions are top priority and during Stoptober. As this campaign is featured fairly heavily on television and radio, it is quite easy for pharmacies to get involved, as most customers will already be aware of what Stoptober is. 

Pharmacy professionals are ideally placed to advise people on how to stop smoking and provide information about nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) or Champix, to ensure they get the most out of the medication and use it correctly. We’ve been offering our smoking cessation service for six years and during this time we have seen close to 1,000 people quit successfully. 

Whilst we encourage people already thinking about quitting to sign up, initiate conversations about smoking with our patients and promote the service within the pharmacy with leaflets and posters, we strongly believe it has to be the person themselves who makes the choice to quit; there is no point forcing someone to sign up who isn’t ready or willing.

We see people who want to stop smoking on a one-to-one basis at the pharmacy and provide help and behavioural support throughout their 12-week programme, prescribing NRT or Champix, and offering free carbon monoxide tests at each appointment.

Many specialist smoking cessation services use withdrawal-oriented therapy, focusing on preventing a relapse in the early stages of a quit attempt by providing intense support when withdrawal symptoms are at their worst and emphasising the importance of complete abstinence.

I find the first two weeks tend to be the hardest for the person quitting, so building a good rapport at that first appointment is essential. Listening to the person and responding to their concerns and worries aids a successful quit attempt, as does reassuring them that they are no longer in this alone. 

Even though the patient has weekly appointments, I always assure them that they can pop in or call me anytime the pharmacy is open, something which you won’t find at a doctor’s surgery. 

We are currently taking part in a Champix patient group direction (PGD) pilot, where we can carry out a consultation and provide Champix straight away, rather than having to send a request to the GP. Although anyone in the pharmacy team with the appropriate training can carry out smoking cessation clinics, under the PGD the pharmacist has to ask the person a few questions to ensure that Champix is suitable for them and then fill out some pre-prepared forms. We hope to utilise this as part of our Stoptober campaign this year to enable us to encourage more people to take up the challenge of quitting smoking. 

For more information about Stoptober, see Dates for your diary: October.

Leanne is an accuracy checking pharmacy technician and supervisor at Monarch Pharmacy, Coventry. She is also an NVQ/BTEC assessor for pharmacy training providers, including NPA and Scientia Skills.

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