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A recent study from Australia has indicated that there is a high level of confusion about how to react to customer inquiries about e-cigarettes, as most are unclear about current regulations and what research says about the products. There is a need to “provide evidence-based and customized education for pharmacists regarding e-cigarettes to help them guide their clients,” said the study authors.

39% of participants had been asked for advice about e-cigarettes by a customer.
“There are no clear guidelines or policy statements provided by any of the professional organisations for pharmacists on how Australian pharmacy staff should handle customer enquiries about e-cigarettes or on dispensing prescriptions for nicotine solution for use in e-cigarettes as a cessation aid,” they added.

 

The research was conducted by pharmacy and public health academics from the University of Queensland, who conducted interviews with 64 pharmacists and 76 pharmacy assistants across Queensland. A number of the participants, 39%, had been asked for advice about e-cigarettes by a customer, and 75% of them felt that their customers would be interested in using the devices for smoking cessation.

In Australia the devices are legal, but the use of nicotine-containing refills is not. In August 2016, several public health activists, amongst which the New Nicotine Alliance (NNA), had submitted proposals to local regulator Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), to remove nicotine concentrations of below 3.6% from the Poisons Standard. However, in February 2017, the TGA rejected the application and upheld the nicotine ban.

Earlier this month, several MPs raised the issue during a party room meeting, saying that there is widespread support within the government to legalize the nicotine-containing devices. And while Australia’s health minister Greg Hunt is opposed to legalizing the products, he finally agreed to an independent inquiry into the scientific evidence about the devices.

The need for guidance

Given the “growing popularity and use of e-cigarettes as a way to quit smoking, it is essential that pharmacists have adequate and updated information in order to guide their customers in making evidence-based decisions”.
In the meantime, the researchers from the University of Queensland concluded that given the “growing popularity and use of e-cigarettes as a way to quit smoking, it is essential that pharmacists have adequate and updated information in order to guide their customers in making evidence-based decisions”.

They added that the current state of affairs in Australia has created a knowledge gap. The researchers then went on to refer to the UK, where the situation is entirely different, “tobacco products are not sold in UK pharmacies, however, in contrast to Australia, most sell e-cigarettes and professional bodies have positions and policies in regard to e-cigarettes.”

“The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) in the UK indicate in their position statement that ‘where someone is unwilling to use a licensed NRT product, pharmacists should use their professional judgement when giving advice to patients and the public on the use of e-cigarette,” added the authors.

The study which was published in the journal Addictive Behaviors, spoke of the importance of there being some common understanding. “The Australian Department of Health has acknowledged there is public confusion about the legal status of e-cigarettes ‘especially in terms of the regulations that apply to their importation, marketing (including sale) and use.”

Read Further: AJP

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