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Pictured at the launch of a nationwide Quit Smoking Service by community pharmacists are Minister for Health, Dr James Reilly with Dr Stephanie O’Keeffe, HSE national director of Health and Wellbeing; (left) and Kathy Maher, vi vice president, Irish Pharmacy Union (right). Photograph by Jason Clarke Photography.

Pharmacists join quit smoking programme

A NATIONWIDE quit smoking pharmacy service for the public has been launched by the Minister for Health, Dr James Reilly.

Smoking, and related illnesses, is a major public health issue with 5,200 people dying in Ireland from diseases caused by tobacco use every year. 1 in every 2 smokers will die from smoking-related diseases.

The service, which is available in community pharmacies nationwide from Ash Wednesday, is supported by the Irish Cancer Society and the HSE. As part of the service, pharmacists will assist smokers by giving advice on quitting and the health-related benefits. Pharmacists can also give accurate information and advice on options for quitting, including nicotine replacement therapies, which have been proven to double smokers’ chances of success.

“This is a great initiative by pharmacists who are using their training and skills to help smokers make that quit attempt. Let there be no doubt – the single best thing a smoker can do for their health is to quit – and community pharmacists are very well placed to provide smokers with both behavioural and pharmaceutical evidence based cessation supports to make that quit attempt a successful one, ” Minister Reilly said at the launch.

Kathy Maher, vice-president of the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU), highlighting the significant benefits of the service said, “Pharmacists, as among the most accessible healthcare professionals, are ideally placed to play a central role in public health, such as providing tobacco cessation and other health promotion and healthcare services. Pharmacists can help motivate people to quit smoking and to stay tobacco-free for the long term, helping them decide what method works best for them and offering advice on supports such as nicotine replacement therapy to help manage cravings.”

Dr Stephanie O’Keeffe, HSE national director of Health and Wellbeing, said, “Our aim is to work towards a Tobacco Free Ireland. Encouraging smokers to quit, and providing supports to help them, is one of the most important duties for all healthcare workers. Every smoker should be prompted and supported to try to quit each time they come into contact with healthcare services. This pharmacy service complements QUITline, our online HSE QUIT.ie service, and our network of smoking cessation services all over the country, in addition to the work of clinicians in primary care and in hospitals.

Donal Buggy, head of services of the Irish Cancer Society, added, “Smoking is the single biggest risk factor for lung cancer and is a contributory risk factor in several other cancers. We know that the majority of smokers want to quit but we also realise that many see quitting smoking as a huge challenge that can seem impossible. We want smokers to know that they are not alone as they embark on their quitting journey and that there are supports available to them. We are delighted that the Irish Pharmacy Union has launched this initiative which offers accessible information and support in communities for those looking to quit.”

The average cost per admission to treat a smoker as an in-patient for a tobacco-related illness in an Irish hospital is €7,700. The cost of premature deaths due to smoking-related diseases in Ireland was over €3,500 million in 2009.



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