With the advent of the e-cigarette, there are a range of opinions on whether pharmacies should supply them.
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society, the professional body for pharmacy, recommended that pharmacies should not stock e-cigarettes. They have updated their position statement following the more widespread sale of these products but point out these products are unlicensed with no standardisation of safety, quality or efficacy. As such, they should not be sold or advertised from pharmacies.
The PDA (Pharmacists’ Defence Association) has called for the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) to review its premises standards over fears pharmacies are “undermining” the profession by stocking e-cigarettes. The PDA said e-cigarettes should not be sold in pharmacies until a “suitable licensed product” was made available. It recommended its members consider that the products currently have no standardisation when they considered whether to stock them. Pharmacists who felt pressured by their managers to sell e-cigarettes against their professional judgement were recommended to contact the PDA for advice.
The GPhC says pharmacy owners and superintendents should consider “relevant guidance” from the MHRA and RPS when deciding whether to stock e-cigarettes.
Some of the pharmacists who do stock the e-cigarette say that they are helpful as an addition to the Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) products currently available, which help people to reduce or quit smoking.
This is an ethical dilemma and pharmacists should consider carefully before any decision to stock the e-cigarette is made.
This is summarised well in a couple of paragraphs from the RPS Position Statement:
‘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-cigarettes, taking into consideration: current evidence on safety and efficacy; the risks and benefits of using unlicensed e-cigarette products; and the normalising of the smoking habit itself, particularly for young people and non smokers.
As health professionals and providers of NHS care services there is an ethical dilemma supporting the sale of products owned and promoted by tobacco manufacturers.’