West Virginia in Action

West Virginia’s Tobacco Control Program Works with Pharmacists to Help People Quit Smoking
Whitewater rafting in West Virginia

Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States, accounting for about 480,000 deaths every year.1 Nationally, an estimated 14% of adults currently smoke cigarettes and more than 16 million Americans live with a smoking-related disease.2

In 2016, the West Virginia Division of Tobacco Prevention, part of the state’s Department of Health and Human Services, was looking for new ways to lower the number of West Virginia adults who smoke tobacco. Nearly 25% of West Virginia adults were cigarette smokers—the highest percentage of any state in the country.3 The Tobacco Prevention program staff knew that pharmacists can play a key role in promoting health by counseling people on how to quit using tobacco products and by providing nicotine replacement therapies like patches or gum. Counseling and nicotine replacement therapies are proven, effective ways to help smokers quit.4 The Tobacco Prevention program staff decided to work more closely with small pharmacies in rural counties to reduce tobacco use among West Virginians.

West Virginia’s Tobacco Prevention Staff Partner with Pharmacists

Creative Pharmacist (now known as STRAND Clinical Technologies) works with pharmacists in over 1,000 independent pharmacies to help patients manage their chronic health conditions.5 Creative Pharmacist shows CDC’s Tips From Former Smokers® ads on TVs in these pharmacies—reaching over 2 million customers in 2 years—to motivate smokers to consider quitting and ask a pharmacist for advice.6

The Tobacco Prevention program and Creative Pharmacist created a pilot program to help people quit smoking. The program focused on small pharmacies in 5 rural counties with high smoking rates. As part of the program, pharmacists:

  • Talked to people who smoked about trying to quit smoking.
  • Hosted counseling and group support sessions.
  • Taught people who smoked about the benefits of nicotine replacement therapy— like patches or gum.
  • Used Tips From Former Smokers® ads and other materials to educate people.
  • Sent text messages about quitting.
  • Told people who smoked about services offered by the West Virginia Tobacco Quitline, including free phone counseling and 8 weeks of free nicotine replacement therapy.6
Pharmacy Pilot Program Helps West Virginians Quit Smoking

The pilot program created by this public-private partnership between the Tobacco Prevention program and pharmacies has helped West Virginians quit smoking. Fifty adults who smoked cigarettes enrolled in the program. Within 10 weeks of launching the program, 40% of the enrolled clients had quit smoking, and one-third of the 40% remained quit at 24 weeks. The program was expanded, with an additional 8 rural pharmacies enrolling 110 clients, 30 of whom had quit cigarette smoking within 12 weeks. The program continues to be evaluated and enhanced.6

The partnership between Tobacco Prevention staff, Creative Pharmacist, and pharmacists in rural counties helped place Tips from Former Smokers® television ads and other materials related to quitting in rural pharmacies. When people who smoke see the messages, they can turn to their local pharmacists for advice on how to quit smoking. As a result of this program, pharmacists have built stronger relationships with West Virginians who smoke and are seen as trusted counselors who are willing and able to help people quit smoking. Tobacco Prevention staff, who are supported with CDC funding and received technical assistance from CDC for this project, are finding new ways to reduce tobacco use in West Virginia.