PHARMACIES dispensed a staggering 85,000 stop-smoking aids in the last year – from gum and patches through to medicine.
But health bosses would like to see the figures rise further as they aim to make Lothian smoke free.
The region has one of the lowest take-up rates in Scotland, with just 8.3 per cent of adult smokers in the Lothians using pharmacies for help, well below Glasgow’s 13.3 per cent.
Community Pharmacy Scotland have launched a drive to increase uptake as driving smoking levels down by just one per cent in the Lothians would save 81 lives each year.
About 600,000 people go through the door of Scotland’s 1250 community pharmacies every day, making them the easiest point of access to many NHS services, including smoking cessation.
The process starts with a 15-minute consultation with a pharmacist or other trained expert who will discuss setting a quit date to work towards.
A carbon dioxide reading will be conducted – to see how smoking is affecting the supply of oxygen in the blood – and tested at regular intervals.
Matt Barclay, of Community Pharmacy Scotland, said it many cases it was easier for people to visit a pharmacy rather than book to see a GP, with the full range of treatments available from trained staff.
He said: “You can choose which treatment to have after a discussion with a pharmacist, doctor or nurse about the pros and cons of each of the treatments. Either nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), bupropion, or varenicline can be prescribed for people who want to stop smoking.
“NRT is the most popular – and this is available as gum, skin patches, inhalers, lozenges, nasal spray and mouth spray. Once you have decided which treatment you would like to use, you usually set a date to start. Some people prefer to stop smoking at the end of one day, and start NRT when they wake the following day. Others prefer to use NRT while they are still smoking, as a way of cutting down gradually.”
Bupropion reduces withdrawal symptoms and must be prescribed by a GP. Varenicline, which is available from trained pharmacists, mimics the effects of nicotine – reducing the urge to smoke and cutting withdrawal symptoms.
Some 1800 people in the Lothians are still killed each year by smoking and the cost to NHS Lothian of treating patients amounts to more than £76 million per annum.
Sheila Duffy, chief executive of ASH Scotland, said: “We just want to put it out of fashion in the kind of way we did with snuff use – that used to be really widely spread but is now out of fashion. I want cigarettes to become that kind of historical relic and I don’t want cigarette companies to hook my kids into this lethal addiction.”