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    Drugstores can't miss with smoking cessation

    The Hamacher Resource Group provided the information for this article. The Milwaukee company provides marketing services and business intelligence to the healthcare industry. Wholesalers, manufacturers, and retailers partner with Hamacher Resource Group to improve their profitability. For more information, visit www.hamacher.com.

    It may be tempting to overlook your smoking-cessation department as so ubiquitous to your pharmacy that you hardly give it a second thought. It doesn?t call much attention to itself, since new product introductions in this category are infrequent, and breakthroughs in treatment are difficult to come by. After all, the success of this category?s products is largely dependent upon the commitment of the consumer to make it work. That?s unusual for an over-the-counter medicine. Think of it: What shopper with a bad cold is going to purposely forget to take the decongestant you sold him because he?d rather keep the cold? Smoking-cessation shoppers are a different breed; their condition is as much behavioral as it is physical. That, in a nutshell, is why pharmacies have an edge when it comes to smoking-cessation sales. They treat the customer as an individual, not just another sale.

    Who is your customer?
    According to the National Center for Health Statistics 2002 data (the most recent available), an estimated 22.8% of ordinary Americans (about 47 million) are regular cigarette smokers. That percentage has been declining steadily for 15 years, while the cost of cigarettes and public disapproval of smoking has increased. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that approximately 55% of smokers tried to quit during 2004. At any given time, about 26 million Americans are at some stage in the quitting process?thinking about quitting, setting a quit date, researching OTC or prescription quitting aids, talking to their doctors, or looking for basic information, even motivation. As front-line healthcare providers, pharmacists play a key role in helping smokers move from thinking to acting.

    How do OTC smoking-cessation products work?
    OTC quitting aids generally take one of three main approaches to helping a smoker break the addiction. Nicotine replacement therapy (commonly known as NRT) products are by far the best sellers, and the most heavily advertised. Gums, patches, and lozenges all address the problem by feeding the craving for nicotine. Behavioral advice is now included with many of these products, as manufacturers have recognized the need to treat the mental and emotional attachment to the act of smoking.

    How do OTC smoking-cessation products work? OTC quitting aids generally take one of three main approaches to helping a smoker break the addiction. Nicotine replacement therapy (commonly known as NRT) products are by far the best sellers, and the most heavily advertised. Gums, patches, and lozenges all address the problem by feeding the craving for nicotine. Behavioral advice is now included with many of these products, as manufacturers have recognized the need to treat the mental and emotional attachment to the act of smoking.

    A third type of OTC smoking-cessation product makes smoking an unpleasant experience. Smokers can choose from a variety of mouth sprays and homeopathic or herbal remedies, all of which react with cigarettes to leave behind an unpleasant taste or sensation. The goal is for the smoker to become dissatisfied with smoking, until he or she willingly gives up the habit.

    What can pharmacists do to help sales?
    First and most important, listen to your customer. Understand that smokers who want to quit are in a precarious position and probably under a lot of social pressure to stop smoking. Keep your smoking-cessation department near the pharmacy counter, where shoppers can easily find you to ask a question or get support.

    Stock educational materials right alongside your product selection. Smokers new to the quitting process do not always fully appreciate that smoking is more than nicotine addiction. Educational leaflets can help explain that the habit of smoking becomes part of a smoker?s identity, and plans must be made to replace that harmful behavior with something more positive.

    Next, be watchful for opportunities to increase companion sales. Smokers are often deficient in vitamin E, vitamin C, and folic acid. When talking with a smoking-cessation customer, suggest that he or she check out your vitamins and dietary supplements display. OTC tooth whiteners offer another companion sale opportunity, as quitters are often self-conscious about their nicotine-stained smiles. Breath remedies are popular with smokers and quitters alike, so consider cross-merchandising some of the most popular items right alongside your smoking-cessation assortment.

    The neighborhood pharmacy is a great place to offer a smoking-cessation clinic. You might be a prime candidate to lead it, or you may want to get in touch with a local hospital or Red Cross to find a qualified group leader. Partner with a dentist in your area to make cross-recommendations. Dentists are often the first healthcare professionals to notice the damaging effects of cigarette smoking in their patients. Gum disease tends to hit smokers harder than the nonsmoking population, and dentists are therefore in a perfect position to advocate quitting. Likewise, if a smoker comes to you for help with quitting, you can comfortably recommend your dentist associate for professional tooth whitening or treatment of gum problems.

    However you decide to address your smoking-cessation customers, remember to maintain a well-stocked department. NRT gums, patches, and lozenges come in different strengths and are designed for use by different kinds of smokers. A patch with 21 mg of nicotine cannot be substituted for one with 14 mg, so don?t be tempted to save space by stocking only one or two strengths.

    Your smoking-cessation customers are very loyal to the drug outlet?78% of sales were made in drugstores versus food and mass-merchandiser outlets during 2005, according to Information Resources Inc. Reward them with personalized attention and superior product selection and watch them return again and again with all of their OTC business.

    Table 1

    Smoking-cessation category sales*

    Information Resources Inc. (IRI) 52 weeks ended Oct. 2, 2005 (not including Wal-Mart data)

    Total smoking-cessation category in FDMX* ($494.8 million)

    Outlet

    Sales

    Outlet share

    Drug

    $387,112,392

    78%

    Food & mass-merchandisers

    $108,039,545

    22%

    Total anti-smoking gums (58% of category)

    Outlet

    Sales

    Sales

    Drug

    $232,919,714

    80%

    Food & mass-merchandisers

    $18,126,852

    27%

    Total anti-smoking tablets (14% of category)

    Outlet

    Sales

    Outlet share
    Drug

    $50,335,039

    73%

    Food & mass-merchandisers

    $18,126,852

    27%

    Total other anti-smoking remedies (1% of category)

    Outlet

    Sales

    Outlet share

    Drug

    $820,090

    91%

    Food & mass-merchandisers

    $51,112

    9%

    *Food, drug, and mass-merchandisers, excluding Wal-Mart data

         
    Table 2

    Never-out list by subcategory

    List provided by Hamacher Resource Group

     

    Nicotine patches

    NicoDerm CQ Step 1 21-mg Patch 14 ct.

    NicoDerm CQ Step 1 21-mg Patch 14 ct Clear

    NicoDerm CQ Step 2 14-mg Patch 14 ct Clear

    Nicotine Transdermal System Patch 21-mg 7 ct

    Nicotine Transdermal System Patch 21-mg 14 ct

     

    Anti-smoking gums

    Nicorette Nicotine Gum Starter Kit 2-mg Original Flavor 110 ct

     

    Anti-smoking tablets

    Commit Nicotine Lozenge 2-mg Mint 72 ct

    Commit Nicotine Lozenge 4-mg Mint 72 ct

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