Waterloo pharmacist develops pan-Canadian framework to help Canadians quit smoking

Monday, January 21, 2019

Person breaking a cigarette with two medical people discussing a folder in the background.

Enlisting the help of pharmacists could help in the quest to get people to quit smoking, according a white paper released by Prof. Nardine Nakhla in Waterloo's School of Pharmacy.

The paper, released today to align with Canada's National Non-Smoking Week, details ways in which  pharmacists could help curb smoking rates. Pharmacists are accessible and trusted health care professionals who can thoroughly assess, counsel and initiate therapy for Canadians who want to quit smoking if their role in public health efforts increased. 

Smoking causes an estimated 45,000 deaths in Canada each year, and tobacco use is still the single most preventable cause of premature death and disease in the country.

Portrait of Nardine NakhlaWe know that success quitting is more likely when people receive advice from one or more healthcare professionals, and when medication and behaviour counselling are used together,” said Nakhla. “As the gatekeepers of, and experts on, pharmacotherapy, pharmacists are well-positioned and uniquely qualified to offer consistent support and evidence-based medication recommendations to Canadians who are trying to quit.”

The services a pharmacist can provide vary across Canada, so the white paper analyzed the scopes of practice of pharmacists in each jurisdiction and prosed a unified framework to support Canadians who are seeking smoking cessation. Counselling on quitting strategies, making self-care recommendations, and prescribing Schedule I medications to help people quit all fall under the umbrella of smoking cessation services, and Canadians can access these services from pharmacists across the country.

“Pharmacists are embedded in communities and often have long hours, making them easily accessible to Canadians who are looking for support in their quit attempts,” said Nakhla. “They are knowledgeable about the wide range of products available to help people quit, and possess the skills and tools necessary to help guide patients towards a smoke-free lifestyle.”

To develop the white paper, Nakhla and her team consulted key opinion leaders and subject matter experts in smoking cessation from each province and territory in Canada, as well as advocacy bodies, industry, and government. Based on feedback from this group, the team has proposed a unified framework to guide Canadian pharmacists and is looking to harmonize the tools and resources available to pharmacists to ensure consistent care and support for Canadian patients, regardless of where in the country they reside.

Learn more about the pharmacist-led smoking cessation initiative or download the white paper (pdf) listed under resources.