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Nicotine replacement therapy: pharmacists' counseling role

Institution: SRI International
Investigator(s): Karen Hudmon, Dr.P.H., R.P.H., M.S.
Award Cycle: 1998 (Cycle 7) Grant #: 7IT-0169 Award: $113,929
Subject Area: Nicotine Dependence
Award Type: Inno Dev & Exp Awards (IDEAS)

Initial Award Abstract
As one of the public's most accessible patient educators, pharmacists are trained to provide information about prescription and nonprescription medications. Since 1996, when nicotine gum and patches became available without prescription, pharmacists have been fated with the new challenge of providing counseling for an addictive behavior among persons who may not have first met with a physician. However, with this challenge also comes opportunity. For each smoker that buys nicotine patches or gum, the pharmacist has the chance to counsel and help with the quit attempt.

If California's 20,084 licensed pharmacists are willing and able to take an active role in helping their patients quit smoking, it could have a tremendous public health impact. Although studies have shown that pharmacists can have a very important impact on whether a person is able to quit smoking or not; other studies have shown that pharmacists typically are not active in providing smoking cessation counseling. The reasons for this are not known. The goal of the proposed study is to gain a clear picture of pharmacists' stance on smoking cessation counseling and to understand what would be needed to enable pharmacists to take a more active role in helping smokers to kick the habit for good. Using a written questionnaire, we will ask 2,300 pharmacist in Northern California questions about issues such as: (1 ) their knowledge of nicotine patches and gum, (2) if and how they counsel patients who purchase patches or gum, (3) how confident they feel when helping patients quit smoking, (4) if it is possible to counsel smokers, given the number of prescription customers that they serve each day, and (5) the benefits of and barriers to providing smoking cessation counseling. The information that we learn from this study will help us to design a program to train and motivate pharmacists to join the nation's anti smoking efforts.