Letter: Nicotine patches

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The Independent Online
MILLY JENKINS ("Nothing's a patch on will power", 10 March) implies that pharmacists sell nicotine replacement products (NRT) as though all a smoker has to do is use them and they will automatically quit smoking.

The vast majority of pharmacists and their staff are fully aware that NRT is merely a tool - though a very powerful tool - to help people giving up. No tool - including NRT, hypnosis, acupuncture or smoking cessation clinics - will succeed unless the person has passed the stage of "pre- contemplation" and are actually ready to give up.

Many pharmacists go much farther than giving "minimal advice". Indeed it is in the pharmacists' interests to ensure that the person trying to give up gets as much support as possible. Every person who successfully quits will encourage others to try the same method. Many pharmacists provide successful smoking cessation advice in a variety of formats. One pharmacist in Belfast has had a 46 per cent success rate after six months with people who entered his programme. This programme has been developed and made available to all community pharmacists and is currently being piloted and evaluated in a number of health authorities, including Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster.

TONY CARSON

Community Pharmacy Facilitator

Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster Health Authority

London W2

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