Person breaking a cigarette in half

How Pharmacists Are Making a Difference Through Smoking Cessation

January 10, 2022

by Erin Ballentine

Although the percentage of Americans who smoke has dramatically decreased in the last 20 years, millions of people are still dependent on this life-threatening habit. The impacts of smoking are far-reaching, altering the function of multiple body systems and worsening several common health conditions. For these reasons, millions of dollars are spent each year treating patients whose health has been worsened through smoking. So, if it is clear just how harmful smoking is for patients and the healthcare system, what barriers are preventing us from making more positive change, and who is best equipped to make these changes?

The Unique Role of Pharmacists in the Outpatient Setting

Although the percentage of Americans who smoke has dramatically decreased in the last 20 years, millions of people are still dependent on this life-threatening habit.
Within both community and ambulatory settings, pharmacists can uniquely make a difference in the lives of current smokers. Andrew Straw, assistant professor of pharmacy practice at Cedarville University and the residency program director at Rocking Horse Community Health Center, believes these settings provide ample opportunities to approach patients about smoking habits through motivational interviewing strategies in order to support their attempts to quit. Dr. Straw has been able to speak to a number of patients suffering from diabetes, respiratory diseases, or cardiovascular diseases and show patients how harmful smoking is in worsening these conditions. Although pharmacists have the knowledge and the tools to help patients with smoking cessation, several barriers make it difficult for them to do so in most outpatient settings.

Barriers and Potential Solutions

Myriam Shaw Ojeda, assistant professor for pharmacy practice at The Ohio State University College of Pharmacy and Director of Pharmacy Extension and Public Health at the Ohio Pharmacists Association (OPA) and The Ohio State University Extension, has taken strides to understand these barriers and work toward practical solutions that would allow outpatient pharmacists in all settings to make a difference in promoting smoking cessation. One of the largest barriers identified is the time that it takes pharmacists to have these conversations with patients. In the past, pharmacists in Ohio were not recognized as providers and thus did not receive direct reimbursement outside of their dispensing role for their efforts, which required integrating non-dispensing services into the busy workflow of a pharmacy. But Ohio legislators passed a law giving provider status to pharmacists, opening the door to further reimbursement opportunities and allowing for additional pharmacist-led clinical services, including smoking cessation.

Although pharmacists have the knowledge and the tools to help patients with smoking cessation, several barriers make it difficult for them to do so in most outpatient settings.
After identifying barriers to pharmacist-led smoking cessation, Dr. Shaw-Ojeda led a team in receiving a grant from the Ohio Department of Health to create a three-part educational series for pharmacists and pharmacy students about smoking cessation practices. This series focused on clinical pearls of smoking cessation, pharmacologic options to assist in quitting, and how to integrate this service into a community pharmacy workflow. Dr. Straw and student innovators within the Cedarville University Center for Pharmacy Innovation supported these efforts to equip pharmacists to provide high-quality, effective smoking cessation services.

To hear more about Dr. Shaw-Ojeda’s work and the results of this initiative, listen to our latest episode of DISRxUPT, a podcast of the Cedarville University Center for Pharmacy Innovation. In this episode, Andrew Straw and Myriam Shaw Ojeda speak from their personal experiences with smoking cessation and how they see pharmacists making a difference in this area in the near future.

Erin Ballentine is a student pharmacist at the Cedarville University School of Pharmacy. She completed her B.S. in pharmaceutical sciences at Cedarville University, and is currently completing her M.B.A. concentrated in healthcare administration through Cedarville as well. Her current career goals are to pursue a health systems pharmacy administration leadership residency program and hold a managerial role within a hospital pharmacy setting.

The Cedarville University School of Pharmacy is equipping its Doctor of Pharmacy students to be on the leading edge of healthcare innovation. Cedarville’s Pharm.D. students are fully prepared to begin a rewarding career as a pharmacist and to use their calling to make a difference for Christ as they serve with excellence and compassion.

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