Rep. Tanzi bill to help people
quit smoking passes House


STATE HOUSE – The House of Representatives today passed a bill sponsored by Rep. Teresa Tanzi that would allow qualified pharmacists to prescribe tobacco cessation drug therapies to patients struggling with nicotine addiction. That, advocates say, will help those who are ready to quit do so successfully.

“When someone struggling with nicotine addiction is ready to make a change, we should be there to help them,” said Representative Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett). “Access to tobacco cessation drug therapies doubles their chances of successfully quitting. But a shortage of primary care providers means it can take too long for folks to get a prescription. By empowering our local pharmacists to help folks access treatment, we’ll offer them a hand up when they’re ready to grab it.”

The legislation (2023-H 5555) would allow licensed pharmacists who have completed education on FDA-approved tobacco cessation therapy drugs to prescribe such medications to eligible patients who complete an initial intake evaluation and commit to appropriate follow-up visits. It passed the house unanimously.

Eight other states, including New Mexico, Utah and Vermont, have similar legislation, while at least 16 states offer pharmacists some authority to prescribe tobacco cessation treatments.

Smoking tobacco is associated with serious illness and premature death. Each year, about half of smokers try to quit permanently, but only about 6% are able to do so successfully due to an addiction to nicotine, according to the National Institute of Health.

Research shows that tobacco cessation drug therapies, such as nicotine replacement therapies, bupropion or varenicline dramatically increase individual’s chances of successfully quitting. While some treatments, such as nicotine gum and patches, are available over-the-counter, others are only available by prescription.

Enabling pharmacists embedded in local communities to talk to patients about these treatments and prescribe them when appropriate will lead to more individuals successfully quitting tobacco use, advocates say.

“Helping individuals quit smoking is a difficult task, which may require more than ten touchpoints or attempts to be successful,” said Chris Federico, president-elect of the Rhode Island Pharmacists Association. “Pharmacists are one of the most accessible health care providers in the country, with 90% of the population living within five miles of a pharmacy, meaning we can play a vital role in helping patients access the treatment they need to quit. We thank Rep. Tanzi for her work and look forward to supporting the full passage and implementation of this bill.”

The bill now heads to the Rhode Island Senate where Sen. Bridget Valverde (D-Dist. 35, North Kingstown, East Greenwich, South Kingstown) has introduced companion legislation (2023-S 0292).



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