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Smokers ‘being deprived of much-needed help to quit’ 

The health system needs to do more to help smokers quit, otherwise smoking rates will not fall fast enough, the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) warned on National No Smoking Day as it criticised the lack of action and innovation in how smoking cessation supports are offered.

“The rate of smoking in Ireland has fallen steadily over the last five years,” stated Mr Tomás Conefrey, a community pharmacist and member of the IPU, citing the Healthy Ireland 2019 Survey. “This is a huge achievement and all those responsible should be commended, most notably the quitters themselves. However, 17 per cent of people over the age of 15 still smoke every single day, and that is far too many

“The welcome reduction over the last five years will not be sustained into the future unless access to support is improved. In particular, we need to offer greater support to medical card patients, as the research shows smoking in deprived areas is far higher than the national average (24 per cent) and higher still for those unemployed (40 per cent).

“Nicotine replacement therapy is proven to work and can significantly improve the chances that an attempt to quit will be successful. NRT has been successfully available in pharmacies for many years but unfortunately, medical card patients still must go through their GP. This reduces the convenience and creates an unnecessary barrier for would-be quitters. There is no reason why this artificial barrier should remain in place and it will limit Ireland’s ability to lower smoking rates.”