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'We're Passionate About It': Pharmacists Help Coloradans Quit Smoking

By Shawn Chitnis

DENVER (CBS4) - Smokers in Colorado looking to quit have another resource to help them give up the habit now that pharmacists can prescribe medications often used to help someone stop smoking.

Dan Scales
Dan Scales (credit: CBS)

"I have found that when you're ready to quit, you're ready to quit, you have the motivation right now to do it," said Dan Scales, a pharmacist and owner of Scales' Pharmacy in Denver.

The law allowing for pharmacies to provide prescriptions without a primary care provider in Colorado includes contraception and smoke cessation. Pharmacists say it is another important point of access for the public in the current health care system.

"Being able to provide an extra way for people to access what they need to help quit is amazing," said Emily Zadvorny, clinical associate professor for the CU Skaggs School of Pharmacy and the executive director of the Colorado Pharmacists Society.

Zadvorny says not only is a pharmacy another option for patients but it creates more flexibility because locations are open at night and on weekends or holidays. The law tries to address public health needs with the help of pharmacists but did not specify with issues they should address. Smoking cessation rose to the top, according to Zadorny.

"That motivation to quit is there and then you're around someone that is smoking and then it's gone very quickly," said Scales.

Dan Scales (2)
(credit: CBS)

The pharmacy owner knows the struggle well as someone that quit about six months ago. He started smoking in college, quit but then started again. He says when he was ready to quit the second time he was hesitant to go to his own doctor and address this issue. Scales believes others may feel the same way.

"I feel like most patients have a really good relationship with their pharmacy because they're dealing with them on a very regular basis," he said.

Scales went through the type of program one of his own patients can now complete at his pharmacy. He says the accountability he got from his staff is the same kind of service he can provide to anyone looking to quit with a program at his business.

"Utilizing pharmacists to their full potential and their full reach and their full relationships that they already have with patients," she said. "Really can help meet the needs of the state as well."

There was a process to get regulations in place and create the infrastructure for pharmacies to take on this new responsibility. Pharmacists looking to provide this service must have their doctorate or at least five years of experience and complete additional training in the area of smoke cessation.

cigarette smoking generic
(credit: iStock/Getty Images Plus)

"It really has the most impact in the rural communities where they don't necessarily have as many primary care providers that are available," said Scales.

Medication to treat the addiction to nicotine can double a patient's chances of successfully quitting, according to Zadvorny. She says this is why people should not be limited in their options. Pharmacists will still collect important data to determine the right treatment based on medical history, other medications, and smoking habits.

If someone is interested in working with a pharmacy, they should ask to find out what services are provided at any location. This is an optional feature so it will vary from one pharmacy to the other. For treatment with hormonal contraception, a year later from the launch hundreds of pharmacists have gone through the training and are now offering that service.

Pharmacists will still collaborate with primary care providers so this potential treatment becomes part of the larger health care plan for a patient.

"We're very passionate about it, so we want to make sure our patients are successful," said Scales.

Shawn Chitnis reports weeknights for CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. Email him story ideas at and connect with him on Twitter or Facebook.

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