Smoking rates have dropped to their lowest for a century, but support to quit is still vital

This year’s No Smoking Day activity has added emphasis, given the good news that the number of adult smokers in England has dropped below 20 percent for the first in almost a century. Reporting their findings in a letter to the BMJ, scientists from University College London said: ‘We hope that breaking the 20 per cent barrier will motivate smoking cessation efforts across the country.’

Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK’s head of tobacco policy, says of the finding: ‘It’s very encouraging to see this snapshot of the number of smokers in England. Reassuringly, the figures are going down, but it’s vital to remember the many millions of people who remain addicted to a lethal product. Half of long-term users will die from smoking,’ she said.

No Smoking Day has been running since 1983, when 34 per cent of the UK smoked, and has been credited with helping about 1.4 million smokers to quit. NHS Quit Kits are available to pharmacies, free of charge, from November to March each year. During last year’s campaign, 463,770 Quit Kits were distributed online and through pharmacies – 61 per cent of them resulted in a quit attempt and 34 per cent of these attempts were still going strong after four weeks.

NSD 2014

No Smoking Day 2014 has a ‘V for Victory’ theme. Organiser the British Heart Foundation hopes to beat last year’s total of one million quit attempts.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society urges pharmacists to seize the opportunity to promote quit aids and signpost smokers to local support services. Howard Duff, Royal Pharmaceutical Society director, says: ‘Pharmacists are perfectly placed to spread the word about No Smoking Day and help people ditch their cigarettes for good.’

As part of the ongoing NHS Smokefree campaign, Public Health England opened the New Year with a new set of shock adverts running across TV, outdoor and online media. The television advert was widely described as hard- hitting, graphically depicting the damage that smoking inflicts on the heart and brain. ‘This advertising campaign aims to remind smokers of the harm that cigarettes cause out of sight, inside the body,’ says Sheila Mitchell, director of marketing at PHE. ‘The potential damage to the brain through increased risk of a stroke orcognitive decline is something smokers are less aware of and we hope the ads will highight this”

Public Health England’s national director of health and wellbeing, Kevin Fenton says that pharmacists are a good source of support. ‘There are a variety of different ways to help people stop smoking and it is important that everyone finds a way that works for them. Pharmacists are easily accessible and well-placed to offer ongoing support, keeping motivation levels high.’

Smokers are four times more likely to quit with one-to-one professional support.

Support to smoke less

Boots launched its own smoking cessation service last September in 547 pharmacies across the UK. The Boots Smoke Less plan is said to be different in that it focuses on the whole of a person’s quitting journey.

Research commissioned by Boots suggests that, with the wide range of nicotine replacement products available, there are – rather surprisingly – more than 160,000 different ways to quit smoking. The Smoke Less plan strives to reflect this flexibility, says the company, offering personalised support and advice both in store and over the phone and allowing customers the opportunity to swap their NRT treatment free of charge to find the right product for them.

The Smoke Less website features an NRT product guide to help smokers choose the ideal quit support product for them and a money savings calculator

Establish patients’ goals

In addition to the NHS Stop Smoking Service, Lloydspharmacy also offers the Lloydspharmacy Stop Smoking service. Patients can choose between a ‘Stop Now’ and a ‘Cut Down and Quit’ option, followed by weekly one-to-one appointments to help keep the quitting process on track.

Members of the All About Health programme have had access to a regional PR campaign to support National No Smoking Day. ‘We have supplied 25 members across the UK and Northern Ireland with giant cigarettes to use as props in photocalls that we have arranged with their local newspapers. This vastly increases the chances of improved footfall and uptake,’ says Louise Baglole, service development pharmacist for All About Health.

‘It’s a great opportunity to highlight the services and support available through pharmacy in particular, promoting the smoking cessation message. Many smokers who wish to quit need a trigger or a target date to get them going and this particular day makes for a perfect start to the quitting journey.’

Pharmacy promotion

A recent survey of 2,000 smokers conducted by The Co-operative Pharmacy revealed that almost a quarter (24 per cent) describe themselves as ‘social smokers’, despite more than a third of these smoking between six and 20 cigarettes a day. This suggests that many smokers are in denial about the extent of their habit or downplay it to avoid a growing stigma associated with it.

The survey also found that three in five smokers have previously tried to quit, with just under half (47 per cent) of them smoking less after taking up the habit again.

The Co-operative Pharmacy is supporting the NHS Smokefree campaign with additional marketing in branches to promote No Smoking Day. The Stop Smoking Service is available at Co-operative pharmacies and smokers will also be able to pick up the new NHS Quit Cards, which are available at almost 490 Co-operative pharmacies and explain the full range of support that is available.

Smoking scratch cards

The National Pharmacy Association has launched new StopSmoking scratch cards just in time for No Smoking Day. The scratch cards, part of a set that also covers alcohol, chlamydia and fitness, encourage smokers to examine their smoking habits and speak to their pharmacist if they are interested in cutting down or quitting. The alcohol scratch card format has already proved to be a useful tool in helping pharmacy teams to engage with patients on a potentially embarrassing or sensitive topic.

The NPA has also supported No Smoking Day by offering resources to help members manage their own events, including social media updates, presentations and talk notes for community groups and template press releases.

Raise public awareness

Last year Numark members capitalised on the increased consumer awareness surrounding No Smoking Day with window posters promoting smoking cessation products. Members also received a free healthcare promotional unit to be displayed behind the counter at eye level, as well as other point of sale and planogram resources.

Mimi Lau, Numark’s director of pharmacy services, says: ‘No Smoking Day is a great opportunity for pharmacists and their teams to highlight the help that they can offer their customers year round with regard to smoking cessation services. The heightened public awareness around national campaigns gives you an opportunity to demonstrate your commitment to your customers’ health. However, advice should not just be an extra service you offer, but integral to the whole service you provide.’

Quit resources

In the run-up to No Smoking Day, Johnson & Johnson has added the Nicorette Quitting Edge e-stick to its range of free resources to help pharmacy teams to engage with smokers who want to quit or cut down. The QE-stick is a digital resource loaded with tips on engaging smokers from different backgrounds, guidance on the various treatments and quit strategies pharmacists can recommend, and a step-by-step guide to collaborating with peers on stop smoking services.

The digital format means that resources are portable and easy to print and share with colleagues. The QE-stick will automatically update with the latest news from the smoking cessation field when it is connected to a computer.

Maximise support

Ms Lau, advises maximising impact in the category. While electronic cigarettes are controversial for pharmacy, your advice can cover this area, and you could consider stocking the product, depending on your pharmacy’s view on the subject (see box below on advice from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and General Pharmaceutical Council).

‘In terms of merchandising and range pharmacists should ensure they are offering a variety of formats, strengths and brands. Merchandising by brand, format then strength – lowest to highest – will help customers browse and make a decision about the best treatment for them, she says.

‘New developments in product, such as the electronic cigarette, could also be considered to help grow the category. Pharmacists could consider setting up their own smoking cessation ervice, which supports customers through each and every step on the road to becoming a non- smoker. ‘Consultations and interventions could involve assessing their cravings, providing helpful techniques to manage cravings, discussing routines and behaviours associated with smoking, testing carbon monoxide levels pre- and post-quitting and providing encouragement and motivation. Customers who have made the decision to quit will really appreciate this level of support.’


Fiona McElrea, Whithorn Pharmacy, Whithorn ‘On No Smoking Day we set up an information table to encourage people to give up. Most people who want to quit decide on the day and come straight in, so No Smoking Day doesn’t bring in lots of new people. but we do give them information to take home. I run a smoking clinic, which is funded by our local health board, so sell very few products. I prescribe most of the NRT range: NiQuitin, Nicotinell and Nicorette. We do sell some products to people who have completed the programme, but would like a packet of gum etc, to have for emergencies.’


Ani Patel, Savages Pharmacy, Burnham-on-Crouch ‘We don’t usually get involved with promoting No Smoking Day, because there is a lot offered elsewhere already in this area. There is a lot of duplication with the local doctors’ surgeries and we let them get on with their activities. Our local challenge here is definitely the competition from other professions. We engage as best as possible and have our NRT advisor on hand for people when needed, but do not push the boat out too far for No Smoking Day itself, as doing this is previous years has not been that successful.’ 


William Hughes, pharmacist at RJ Jones Pharmacy, Nefyn ‘We’ve got an NHS-supported stop smoking service, which is invaluable. Days like this and awareness campaigns such as Stoptober are very successful and provide a golden opportunity to grab new patients. Our pharmacy staff put up window displays and posters about two weeks before in the run-up to the day to bring it to people’s attention. You do have to be careful not to push it in people’s faces, but there is an opportunity to highlight the service and let patients know that they have nothing to lose by trying it.’


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