More support required to help Smokers Quit

National No Smoking Day, 14th February 2018

  • Medical card holders should have greater access to help them quit smoking
  • Successful quit attempts lowest for smokers in lowest socio-economic groups
  • Community pharmacists already provide smoking cessation service to private patients

13 February 2018: Ahead of National No Smoking day the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) is calling on the Department of Health to make Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) available to medical card holders without the need for a prescription. According to the IPU, such a scheme would reduce the barriers that currently prevent medical card holders accessing help that would greatly improve their health.

The IPU made a detailed proposal to the Department of Health in early 2017. This recommended a scheme to enable people who hold medical cards to access NRT without prescription under their existing GMS eligibility and thereby remove the current barriers to access that exist for them. The IPU is now calling for its urgent implementation to help Irish smokers with medical cards to quit.

According to Ann Marie Horan, a member of the IPU’s Executive Committee, “Smoking rates are highest in the lowest socio-economic groups. It is much more common among those with a medical card (28.3%) than those without (19.2%). Similarly, lower socio-economic groups experience fewer successful quit attempts.

“It is clear we need to think differently about how we support people to quit smoking. The majority of smokers want to quit, but many don’t know where to start or feel discouraged if they’ve had a lapse.  Pharmacists have been safely providing a smoking cessation service to private patients since 2014. Your pharmacist will help you understand what method will work best for you and they will give you impartial advice on supports, such as nicotine replacement therapy to help manage and reduce cravings.

“There should not be artificial bureaucratic barriers to medical card patients availing of these potentially life-saving supports. This is a scheme that can be easily and quickly be implemented as, from a practical and professional perspective, no further training for pharmacists is required.”


Further information: Jim Curran, Director of Communications & Strategy, IPU, Ph: 086 2640 469

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