I admit I was a Pharmacy Show virgin. This year was the first time I attended the show at the NEC Birmingham on 5 October 2014. I had asked colleagues who have attended previously on what to expect. “Plenty of exhibitors” was the most common answer I received.
And they were right. Before I had even arrived at the Pharmacy Show, I had passed several football-field-sized exhibitions (there were plenty of women attending the National Wedding Show, and I was rather intrigued by the national exhibition for joinery and furniture manufacturers). So when I finally arrived at the entrance of the Pharmacy Show I was expecting the big pharma companies to be dominating the show floor.
To be fair, there were your usual suspects of pharma companies taking up large spaces on the floor (eg, Quantum Pharmaceutical, Pfizer, the big GSK cafe, etc) but what caught my eye was the large number of e-cigarette stands. There was even a car used as a prop on one of the large stands near the entrance to promote a particular brand of e-cigs. As I walked through row after row of exhibitors, it became apparent just how many e-cigarette brands there were. Some had rather interesting branding and “cool” designs. Others came in different strengths.
Having spoken to a few people who are veteran attendees of the Pharmacy Show, I was told that the e-cigs exhibitors have been there for a number of years, but their presence continues to grow each year.
The global sales for e-cigarettes last year was £1.76bn, so maybe I should not be so surprised by its major presence. However, with the debate on whether these products should be sold in pharmacies still ongoing (and the views are divided), would pharmacists feel uncomfortable seeing so many stands flogging different brands of e-cigs at a pharmacy exhibition?
Personally, I would rather people use these products than smoke cigarettes (if they have decided that NRT and prescription medicines are not for them), but I am not sure I would be comfortable working in a pharmacy that stocks the more “exotic” brands of e-cigarettes. After all, who are we trying to attract to buy these products: smokers trying to replace their cigarette use, or people attracted to the vaping habit because the e-cig emits neon lights or is associated with a sexy branding?