Since nicotine patches and gum became available without prescription in 1996, their sales have increased 152 percent. Although the product packaging has been designed for use by the general public, patients now are able to self-prescribe and self-treat their addiction without contacting a health care professional. Thus, many smokers are making quit attempts without the proven positive effects of professional intervention. Although increased access clearly has resulted in increased sales of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products, to our knowledge no studies have assessed who is using the products, how the products are being used, and the extent to which NRT users are interacting with health care professionals regarding their quit attempts. Because NRT products are available to the public almost exclusively via pharmacies, the pharmacist has become the logical candidate for intervening to provide assistance to smokers using nonprescription NRT as an aid for cessation. However, we are aware of no studies that have characterized NRT users and their perceptions of pharmacists' role in smoking cessation. With an ultimate goal of designing an intervention program to train and motivate pharmacists to deliver smoking cessation counseling that meets the needs of NRT users, the aims of this study are to: Characterize NRT users, specifically NRT users' sociodemographic characteristics and smoking behaviors, including support for quitting from health care professionals. Characterize NRT utilization patterns, including compliance with the recommended cessation regimen and plans for terminating NRT use. Characterize current patient-pharmacist interactions with respect to NRT smoking cessation counseling. Assess NRT users' perceived need for and usefulness of pharmacist intervention at the point of NRT purchase, as well as the type of intervention (characteristics and components) that would be most helpful with their quit attempts. Data to be collected from 100 NRT users in the proposed study will complement our study that was recently approved for funding, in which we will survey 2,300 pharmacists in Northern California to assess ability, willingness, and feasibility of providing cessation counseling for nonprescription NRT users. Combining results from these two studies, we anticipate that we will be well prepared to design an effective intervention to train and motivate pharmacists to join the nation's anti-smoking efforts.
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