Tobacco consumption is the largest avoidable health threat in Ireland and 1 in 2 smokers will die from a tobacco-related disease.
The Tobacco Free Ireland (2013) policy document contains a number of recommendations to assist smokers in quitting tobacco use. In relation to nicotine replacement therapy (‘NRT’) the recommendation is that NRT should be more widely available, including in outlets where tobacco products are sold. In 2014 the Health Products Regulatory Authority announced that they licensed some nicotine replacement therapies to be sold in non-pharmacy outlets.
NRT is one element of a range of tobacco cessation services provided by the Health Service Executive (‘HSE’) to those who wish to quit tobacco use. These services include quit clinics and courses, primary care supports provided by GPs, pharmacists and dentists, online and social media supports on Quit.ie and Facebook as well as medication and nicotine replacement therapies. Determining the number of people who access the wide range of cessation services is difficult as people choose to use the services differently. For example, the number of people who use either the online quit plan or the text service cannot be captured. On that basis it is not possible to provide an estimate of the costs involved in making NRT free of charge to all those engaging with the services.
NRT is available free of charge to medical card holders as the evidence shows that those in lower income groups have a higher prevalence of smoking and therefore carry a higher burden of tobacco-related disease than those in higher income groups.