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P.E.I. pharmacists say removing barriers key to quitting smoking

Quitting smoking is tough. Ask anyone who’s managed it, or the thousands who haven’t. Telegram reporter Kenn Oliver is going to give it a try, and he’s inviting you along for the ride.

Quitting smoking is the single most impactful step an individual can take in improving their health. 

Studies have shown that working with a health care provider to create a personalized quit plan, supported by both quit-smoking medications and supportive follow-up increases success rates by up to 20 per cent. 

In early December 2019, a new provincial smoking cessation program was launched. 

While the investment by the province to reduce smoking rates in P.E.I. is applauded, the P.E.I. Pharmacists Association says there’s a missed opportunity to improve access to the service.

In a news release, the association said currently, Island residents with a valid P.E.I. health card can access the program only by making an appointment with a nurse at a primary care network office during business hours. 

Once enrolled, it is necessary to then make another appointment with their family doctor or nurse practitioner to get a prescription, if prescription medication is recommended. 

Benefits of quitting smoking: 

  • 20 minutes after quitting: Your blood pressure drops to a level similar to that before your last
  • 8 hours after quitting: The level of carbon monoxide (a toxic gas) in your blood drops to normal. 24 hours after quitting: Your risk of having a heart attack starts to drop.
  • 2 weeks to 3 months after quitting: The airways in your lungs relax and you can get more air into your lungs and breathe easier.
  • 1 to 9 months after quitting: You cough less and your lungs are even stronger.
  • 1 year after quitting: Your added risk of coronary heart disease is half than that of a smoker.
  • 5 years after quitting: Your risk of having a stroke is the same as a non-smoker.
  • 10 years after quitting: Your chance of dying from lung cancer is much lower. So is your chance of getting cancer in your mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, kidney, and/or pancreas.
  • 15 years after quitting: Your risk of coronary heart disease is similar to that of a non-smoker. 

Source: Health Canada: On the road to quitting 

Pharmacists are hearing from their patients that this can be a significant barrier for them. 

Other provinces across the country have been offering pharmacist-delivered smoking cessation services, conveniently accessible through community pharmacies. 

Pharmacists can help people quit smoking through client assessment, facilitating a quit plan, prescribing the most appropriate treatment option and providing support for adherence to the plan through counseling and follow-ups. 

P.E.I. has a critical need for nurses, and many Islanders do not have a family doctor. 

In this case, some of their time could be freed-up by making better use of other highly skilled health care professionals, such as pharmacists, who are well positioned to provide smoking cessation services. 

The ability of pharmacists, as the drug experts, to write the prescription for smoking cessation medications removes an important barrier to quitting by improving access. 

In addition, an unnecessary physician visit is avoided, perhaps freeing up that appointment spot for someone else who needs it. 

With 51 community pharmacies located across P.E.I., pharmacists are ideally positioned to provide important smoking cessation services to Islanders. 

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