Pharmacists at supermarkets can play a key role when it comes to advising customers about using and complying with anti-smoking products.
"With a new category there's a certain amount of consumer education that is necessary," said Steve Lauder, health care category manager with Minneapolis-based wholesaler, Supervalu.
"We all know how to take an aspirin; with smoking-cessation there are different ways to use the product. Now that anti-smoking products are no longer sold by prescription-only, people want to talk to a pharmacist about them," said Pete Gassenberger, director of pharmacy and health and beauty care at Consumers Food & Drug, Springfield, Mo. "That's why we have merchandised them [anti-smoking products] on the pharmacy counter."
"We think the individual looking for smoking-cessation may require consultation," agreed Bill Marth, director of pharmacy at Price Chopper Supermarkets, Schenectady, N.Y. "This is a customer who has thought about this, and usually wants some sort of advice on it."
Marth said the No. 1 question patients usually ask is: "Does it work?" He replies that smoking-cessation products do provide an aid for quitters, but the commitment needs to be there. "A lot of people are unclear about what they're doing," Marth said.
When asked for recommendations, Marth said his staff tries to explain the treatments and tries not to push one product vs. another.
"Our job is to counsel people. We get people who wear the patch, chew the gum and still smoke. We explain the consequences [of that behavior] to them -- that they are increasing their risk of some sort of coronary artery event," Marth said.
"Nicorette has done a good job by coming out with a program, but I think the patches offer more promise," Marth said. "Nicotrol is less confusing [to use] than Nicoderm, which is one month or two months more, and you have to go down from 21- to 14- to 7-mg," said Paresh Patel, a pharmacist at a Rite Aid Pharmacy in Jersey City, N.J.
But Marth pointed out that quitters using Nicoderm CQ treatment are not required to go through all three steps. "They can jump in at 7-mg or 14-mg, depending on how many cigarettes they are smoking," he said.
"Right now, we are selling the gum better than the patch," Gassenberger said. "But the Nicotrol patch will be overtaking it before long. Nicoderm will be No. 1, I think. It has a better program. I believe the step approach will be the most successful. I could be wrong."
"The patches are expected to take over the market," said David Spohr, a category manager at Fleming GMD, a division of Fleming Cos., Oklahoma City.