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Smoking is on the decline - how to ensure it means more business for your pharmacy

Published on 6th August 2019 - Last update on 7th August 2019

Smoking remains the biggest cause of preventable deaths and accounts directly or indirectly for nearly 80,000 deaths each year in England alone. One in two smokers will die from a smoking-related disease - which can include various cancers, heart and circulatory diseases. Problems with lungs, skin and even reproduction can result from the habit.

The current health education campaigns from the NHS and others seem to be working. They involve more than simply horrific images on cigarette packaging and disturbing TV advertising. NHS local stop smoking services are free, friendly and staffed by expert advisers - and can massively boost smokers' chances of quitting for good.

Surprisingly, however, uptake of these services is actually falling. The number of people who successfully quit smoking with the help of NHS services also declined, by 16% last year to 155,875.

This meant the self-reported quit rate remained stable at around 51% of service users. The report added, perhaps as budget cuts bite and more hardcore smokers remain, some people may simply be wary of using the NHS as a means to quit. This could provide a powerful source of new business for you. 

“People tell us they know that the NHS service exists to help, but they don’t like going to what they see as a ‘big brother’ organisation. They try and stop by themselves - and that’s when they find it gets difficult.”

Smoking cessation is a major health task

The nicotine habit is a powerful one, and many smokers discover that giving up will take much more than willpower alone. 

There are, of course, several routes to help smokers give up. These include nicotine replacement products such as patches, gum, lozenges, inhalators and mouth and nasal sprays which do not require a prescription. There are also the stop smoking tablets such as Champix (varenicline) and Zyban (bupropion), which will require a prescription from a medical professional before you can dispense them.

Hypnosis and acupuncture are sometimes used - although the NHS take the view that there is not enough evidence that they can work to help smokers stop the habit.

“Different people need different ways to break the habit. What works for one is simply no use for another. You need to have the full range of approaches on hand for them to try.”

Public Health England (PHE) even wants e-cigarettes to be available on prescription, because of how successful they have been in helping people give up smoking. They recommend that anyone struggling to quit smoking try switching to an e-cigarette and get professional help. It also states that the greatest quit success is among those who combine using an e-cigarette with support from a local stop smoking service.

What are the opportunities for your business?

There are worries voiced that corner shops and specialist vape stores are simply feeding nicotine addiction, by helping smokers - and even those who have not smoked in the past - with easy ‘recreational’ access to vape systems.

Your pharmacy, on the other hand, is regulated by healthcare agencies and your staff can be qualified to give advice on all aspects of smoking-related health, as well as identify additional health care needs. This could provide the opportunity for your chemist shop to provide the service that the NHS cannot  - an easy to access smoking cessation service, with all the products required ready and waiting to be sold and used. 

Coming to the pharmacy rather than a clinic may be less daunting for would-be clients. 

On the other hand, compared with dropping into the corner shop, it can present a more serious commitment to giving up. 

You are, therefore, uniquely positioned to help. By training staff in smoking cessation advice, you may be able to provide a vital service for those determined to quit, while providing your business with an additional source of profit, by stocking the full range of anti-smoking products. 

Around 2.5 million people in Great Britain used e-cigarettes last year, and while not all of these are vaping as a means to quit smoking, it might be time to consider stocking e-cigarette and vaping lines alongside the more ‘clinical’ solutions.

How can you profit?

You will probably not want to turn your pharmacy into some kind of replacement for the old-style tobacconist, even if stocking vape products could be an important business driver. It might make more sense to consider stocking them as part of a smoking cessation service.

To do this successfully you will need to:

  • Establish links with the local NHS facilities to gain referrals
  • Train staff in the skills and approach required
  • Provide educational material - perhaps in a dedicated area of your shop or practice
  • Support your initiative with marketing to ensure that smokers understand that they can come to you for the help they need.

The costs involved

As with any other business initiative, there will be costs involved in setting up your own stop-smoking service. Training and marketing may be the most significant expenses, although you may want to provide a dedicated area if demand proves sufficient.

“We are seeing more people come into the service, and they see us as ‘health provider’ rather than simply a chemist's shop. That’s a good thing - they trust us, and that means they keep coming back.

At Rangewell we can help secure the funding you need

We work closely with pharmacists across the county, and we understand both the professional and commercial challenges you face, and the financial solutions that can help you answer them.

So, for example, if you are looking at training, or at funding a campaign to publicise your new service, we can help find the most cost-effective short-term funding to pay for your staff to build the skills they need.

If you want new display and merchandising equipment, we can provide Asset Finance solutions to spread the cost of the investment you need.

If you are looking at refitting or refurbishing your retail area to provide a dedicated smoking cessation clinic, we can source loans  - and if you are thinking about supporting your cash flow for the short-term while you focus on your new profit centre, we can introduce you to a wide range of solutions, from Merchant Cash Advances to Asset Refinance.

Business finance can be confusing, and a new venture can be a step into the unknown. To keep your pharmacy thriving while you introduce your smoking cessation service, you need the answers that are most appropriate for your business. You can find them all simply by calling us at Rangewell.  

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Richard Mitchell

Richard Mitchell

Content writer
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