Should Smokers Be Encouraged To Buy E-Cigs From Chemists?
Stoptober might be a shot in the arm for the acceptance of e-cigarettes as an aid to quit smoking but it has also made for strange bedfellows.
Specifically it’s the chemists across the UK that under Public Health England’s guidance are happily taking part in the annual stop smoking scheme – reminding folks the dangers of smoking and offering advice on how to quit.
Nothing wrong with that you might think – however a quick look at the ‘acceptable’ e-cigarette products for sale at one major chain shows extremely close ties – er OK they own them lol – to Big Tobacco companies.
Like I said – strange bedfellows indeed.
I’ll take a look at the ‘guidance’ on e-cigarettes PHE has given the pharmacy industry and how chemist shop managers have reacted later.
Firstly it would seem Big Tobacco now has the monopoly on e-cig sales in chemists and LloydsPharmacy – one of the UKs largest chemist chains – is more than happy to stock and sell them.
The products LloydsPharmacy currently stock are:
Founded back in 2008 and based in Birmingham UK – the e-cig company began very small but grew quickly and at one point held around 27% of the UK e-cigarette market.
It was bought out in 2014 by Phillip Morris Inc – the company behind Marlboro cigarettes.
Back in 2013 Vype was launched here in the UK and was one of the first of the e-cig brands completely backed by a Big Tobacco company.
In this case it was none other than British American Tobacco [BAT] the brand behind Dunhill – Benson and Hedges and Gauloises among others.
Boots – perhaps the largest chain – also sells e-cigarettes however the website shows only 5 Vype products and these can’t be bought online!
E-Cigs Sold In Chemist Maybe Not The Best?
Look I’m not telling you to boycott these brands far from it.
Chatting with Jonny earlier had us both coming to the same conclusion and that is if smokers quit with these products then fantastic – but now move onto something better and certainly cheaper maybe?
However the closed shop style arrangement does niggle me a little.
What I mean is I have an inkling the chemists stocking these products are locked into some kind of ‘exclusivity’ deal that would take a team of lawyers years to untangle them from.
Otherwise why don’t these chemists sell the more popular starter kits and brands out there?
Like I said lawyers and legal contracts maybe?
Look – I have tried both of those products – the Nicocig early in my vaping journey and the Vype Pebble as a reviewer at EcigClick.
Neither were a good experience and in the case of the Nicocig it didn’t stop me smoking either and I seem to remember at the time it was bloody expensive.
As for the Vype Pebble – read my review and you’ll see if this was given to a smoker looking to quit I doubt very much they’d be successful.
Not All Chemists Believe In E-Cigs
So whilst it may be a good thing to see e-cigs appearing next to other more well-known Nicotine Replacement Therapies [NRTs] – the customer is a bit like a gambler in a casino – in this case Big Tobacco always wins and not the house.
Faced with these two options and a chemist in a white coat smiling and hard selling the brand I feel for those less in the vaping know handing over their cash to find they aren’t anywhere near as good as those products we as vapers know.
Not a good message for our pharmacies and chemists to be giving out at all – unless of course it’s all about their bottom line?
Slap my hand and call me Mr Cynical!
I mean look at any high street chemist and it’s packed to the rafters with tat of all descriptions because let’s face it even with the high cost of prescriptions these shops would barely make a profit without the peripherals they sell!
However it’s fair to say not all chemists are open to the idea of selling e-cigs as a smoking cessation aid.
Thorrun Govind a prominent chemist in Bolton told the Chemist and Druggist UK website [I’m a regular reader lol]:
While e-cigarettes can have a role in helping reduce cigarette use, I can’t ‘recommend’ them as clinical trials haven’t been done. I have no proof that they are safe and I don’t want to be encouraging something that I have no evidence for.
Might be an idea to read all those PHE ‘briefings’ that have been doing the rounds Thorrun – just a thought 😉
Speaking of briefings and guidelines…
Governmental Guidance to Pharmacies on Selling E-Cigarettes
So what does Public Health England say about e-cigs and chemists?
I’m glad you asked because I’ve just read their report: Pharmacy: A Way Forward for Public Health [great read BTW lol] in which they lay out their vision of how our chemist shops can play a part in monitoring and improving our health – including stopping us smoking.
Monitoring is actually a little creepy and smells of Big Brother to me.
For instance… walk in with a beer belly to buy some plasters and the chemist will be eyeing your waistband before handing you a leaflet explaining the dangers of alcohol.
Or how about coughing at the counter to get the bored assistant to serve you your aspirins and the cough brings the chemist over with a handful of stop smoking leaflets whilst sticking a nicotine nasal spray up your nose.
I shouldn’t laugh really because health is of course a very serious matter but honestly I really don’t want to be monitored anywhere let alone in a glorified shop.
But I digress – as usual.
Back to the main subject and e-cigs and chemists.
So what advice and guidance does PHE give to their pharmacists regarding the sale of e-cigs in this report published last month I hear you ask.
Here’s what they say:
Pharmacy teams can support efforts to reduce the prevalence of smoking through:
- routinely discussing stopping smoking with people presenting prescriptions related to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), diabetes, heart disease or hypertension or when selling relevant over the counter medicines
- where smokers are identified, pharmacy teams should provide very brief advice alongside selling over the counter nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), if appropriate. Community pharmacy delivered stop smoking interventions, including behavioural support and/or NRT, provided by those trained to the appropriate standard; offer an effective and cost effective way to support smokers to stop smoking. Evaluation of the HLP pathfinder work programme showed that trained pharmacy staff are as good as pharmacists in achieving quit rates
- pharmacy teams can support national stop smoking campaigns. In 2015 over 9,000 pharmacies took part in the New Year smoke free health harms campaign
So…let me get this straight.
You walk into your local chemist to collect your prescription and the chemist – or even the Saturday girl so long as she’s trained – and under PHE directives pounces from behind her screen suggesting you stop smoking – because your illness may or may not be linked to smoking?
Not only that the PHE then says chemists should routinely discuss stop smoking aids and only mentions NRTs which we know don’t work!
If they won’t buy gums – sprays or patches – hit ‘em with the e-cigs – you just gotta make that sale!
Scary stuff if you think about it – not only the monitoring part but the fact the Government is urging them to make sales of NRTs that are proven NOT TO WORK!
Throwing the profits to Big Tobacco under the ‘guidelines’ of the UK Government makes for strange times indeed…
Stop Smoking Services – A Briefing For Health Chiefs
Also released last month was another ‘briefing’ from PHE with Martin Dockrell from the Tobacco Control department taking the lead – and this time aimed at directors and commissioners of public health.
The evidence based document is meant to help these health chiefs make informed decisions on how best to provide stop smoking services [SSS] in their areas.
Since its arrival in 2000 it’s estimated that SSS has helped over 1million people quit smoking – a figure not to be sniffed at by any means – however…
We know from my article earlier this week stop smoking clinics in particular are seeing a down turn in smokers using them with e-cigarettes now recognized as the most popular – if not the most effective way of quitting.
The document suggests that SSS should adopt an “e-cigarette friendly approach” adding:
This involves being open to the use of e-cigarettes by those who wish to do so, providing behavioural support and offering stop smoking medications alongside an e-cigarette if chosen by the individual.
Wow thanks for letting smokers desperate to quit have a choice guys!
But hey I’ve been snippy enough – so yeah well done for allowing smokers to try e-cigs lol.
Naughty Naughty Chemists!
And finally…I was looking for details on what if any training pharmacists and their staff have been given on the use of NRTs and e-cigarettes and couldn’t find any.
However I did stumble across an article in the Pharmaceutical Journal written last summer that made me chuckle.
It would seem that next to car-boot sales and market stalls – chemist shops were the worst ‘offenders’ at selling e-cigarettes to under-age kids!
Excuse me while I cough on my vape – but that info tickled me.
The report suggested that maybe unlike newsagents – mobile phone stores and petrol station kiosks – pharmacists were not used to asking people their age – lol.
However the National Pharmacy Association did suggest that all staff in chemists should be taught the law around sales of e-cigs and policies should be put into place.
Ok in all seriousness however you’re quitting those nasty cancer sticks this Stoptober more power to you and good luck and trust me you’re doing great and it WILL get better!
But do yourself a favour and if you’re struggling with what the chemist sold you – have a look around there’s plenty of absolutely brilliant devices and e-liquids that really could make the difference between quitting and going back to the stinkies.