Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Health, Billy Kelleher has called for pharmacists to take a much more active role in the fight against smoking by being able to dispense nicotine replacement therapy without prescription.

“One in four of the population currently either smoke daily, or occasionally, according to the Annual Report of Tobacco Free Ireland Action Plan, and if we are make to Ireland ‘Smoke Free’ by 2025, we need to make it easier for those heavily addicted to nicotine to get the treatment they need.

“It’s estimated that over 5,600 people die from smoking related diseases directly every year. We have an obligation to do everything in our power to reduce this number.

“I have asked the Minister for Health to investigate the possibility of removing the need for a doctor’s prescription, in the same way as the Morning after Pill is dispensed, before a pharmacist can dispense the therapy.

“This would, I believe, make getting treatment more accessible for people addicted to smoking and increase the numbers availing of the therapy.

“The Minister, in his reply to me, stated that recommendations from HIQA are currently being reviewed by the HSE and the National Clinical Effectiveness Committee as they review the guidelines for smoking cessation.

“Using the network of pharmacies around the country to provide care and support, where suitable, is the right thing to do. Not every treatment needs a visit to the GP and a prescription as long as it is safe.

“This is one positive way of dealing with smoking in this country. It’s not the silver bullet that we all crave, but it’s a step in the right direction,” concluded Kelleher.