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PJ Online | The Society: Society in Scotland supports Bill to ban tobacco advertising and promotion

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The Pharmaceutical Journal
Vol 268 No 7184 p187-191
9 February 2002


Society summary


Society in Scotland supports Bill to ban tobacco advertising and promotion

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society in Scotland (RPSiS) has given its support to a proposed ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship in Scotland. The draft legislation is set out in the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion (Scotland) Bill.

The RPSiS has given both written and oral evidence to the Scottish Parliament's Health and Community Care Committee. In an invited written submission, the Society says that it supports the general principles of the Bill and would like to see it complemented by positive measures to support people who wish to quit smoking.

The submission says that community pharmacy is a key tool in promoting smoking cessation, offering convenient support that has proved effective. It refers to research showing that long-term cessation is greatly improved when those who wish to quit are counselled by their community pharmacist, rather than just sold aids or given information. The document expresses regret that no support has been given to the profession to bring this about across Scotland.

The submission adds that 600,000 people visit pharmacies in Scotland each day, giving pharmacists an unparalleled experience in dealing with health issues and the public. But the close relationship between community pharmacists and the public is not being exploited to the full. Identifying "at risk" groups could be a core task for pharmacists, but the profession is given little support to bring this about.

The submission was accompanied by a copy of the recently published critical review of literature relating to pharmacy's contribution to health development, which was commissioned by the Society and the Pharmacy Healthcare Scheme (PJ, 6 October 2001, p489). The Health and Community Care Committee subsequently included the review in the papers for a hearing on 30 January at which the RPSiS chairman, Alison Strath, and secretary, Dr Sheila Stevens, gave oral evidence.

Highlighting key issues from the Society's written submission, Miss Strath said that the Society welcomed any measure to improve public health. A ban on tobacco promotion had an important part to play but needed to be part of an integrated strategy for improving health, which included helping smokers to quit.

Miss Strath said: "We know from previous work that the most cost-effective interventions in smoking cessation policies are those in which health care professionals give smokers consistent and brief advice about giving up smoking and support with nicotine replacement therapy. Pharmacists have an important role to play in counselling and advising smokers on giving up smoking and on the use of nicotine replacement therapy."

She added that when smoking cessation policies were under consideration it was important to involve all the players in the debate that underpinned the policies. The NHS management executive had made a strong statement that health boards should consider involving not only GPs and nurses but pharmacists in the provision of smoking cessation services.

Asked how pharmacists could provide support, advice and counselling to people who wished to give up smoking, Miss Strath said that it happened already. When pharmacists sold nicotine replacement therapy they and their staff gave advice on how to use the treatments and explained to customers that they could return and ask questions. In a number of schemes around Scotland, pharmacists supplied nicotine replacement therapy free of charge under patient group directions to patients who could not afford to pay for their prescriptions. The question was how to ensure that such innovative practices became standard throughout Scotland, so that all patients benefited from such services.

Asked whether there was an adequate network of local pharmacies in deprived neighbourhoods — which, according to earlier evidence, were targeted by tobacco advertising — Miss Strath said that a good network of pharmacies provided services in most areas. They were often the only health care providers, particularly in deprived areas. It was important that the network remained viable to provide such services.

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