Safeway Pharmacies to Incorporate Ask-Advise-Refer in Over 1,000 Pharmacies by 2015


Safeway will be the first community pharmacy chain to incorporate an organization-wide initiative to include brief smoking cessation interventions as a routine component of patient care. As of January 2015, all Safeway Pharmacies will be engaging in the Ask-Advise-Refer model to identify and assist individuals who want to stop smoking on their journey to becoming tobacco-free.

Safeway Pharmacy recognizes that just as pharmacists made an important contribution to health promotion and disease prevention through increasing community access to immunizations, pharmacists can now address the number-one preventable cause of morbidity and mortality through smoking cessation advocacy.

In 2013, Safeway partnered with the University of California San Francisco - School of Pharmacy

and the California Smokers’ Helpline (CSH) to conduct a research study on community pharmacy-based smoking cessation services in 20 pharmacies. During the 12-week study, 15,000 patients were asked about tobacco use, 1,300 individuals were identified as tobacco smokers, 1,200 received smoking cessation counseling, and hundreds of patients were referred to the CSH. (Results from Randomized Trial)

Tobacco status was documented in the pharmacy prescription dispensing system to screen for tobacco smoke drug interactions and to initiate an Ask-Advise-Refer model of care. Pharmacists also assisted in the selection of appropriate smoking cessation medication therapy. When prescription therapy was deemed appropriate or if a prescription was necessary for over-the-counter nicotine replacement therapy insurance coverage, the patient’s primary care provider was contacted. Pharmacists provided detailed counseling on proper use of smoking cessation medications and follow up care. During all encounters, the value of combining behavioral counseling with effective cessation medications was emphasized to promote successful quit attempts.

Safeway recognizes the tremendous opportunity for community pharmacy to contribute to public health through smoking cessation advocacy. In addition to determining and documenting tobacco use status as a routine component of care, working with the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center and others, Safeway is emphasizing smoking cessation in their expanded scope of services offered to patients such as those with behavioral health conditions, addiction/recovery, HIV, and diabetes. All Safeway pharmacists and pharmacy technicians are now preparing for the nationwide launch of the smoking cessation service – an important contribution to public health.


Parisa Vatanka, Pharm.D.
Pharmacy Strategic Alliances Manager, Safeway, Inc.
Assistant Clinical Professor, University of California San Francisco
Office: (925) 467-3423
[email protected]