A new B.C. government smoking cessation program kicks off this Friday. It will provide free nicotine gum and patches and new subsidies for prescription smoking cessation drugs.

B.C. government quit smoking program starts Friday

The B.C. Government today rolled out the details of a provincial program that provides new assistance to those who want to quit smoking. Announced earlier this year, the program will provides free nicotine gum or nicotine patches to those who register with the program. The program also adds prescription drugs designed to aid in smoking cessation to the list of those covered by B.C. PharmaCare starting on Friday.

The B.C. Government today rolled out the details of a provincial program that provides new assistance to those who want to quit smoking. Announced earlier this year, the program will provides free nicotine gum or nicotine patches to those who register with the program. The program also adds prescription drugs designed to aid in smoking cessation to the list of those covered by B.C. PharmaCare starting on Friday.

If you’re interested in signing up, the government asks you to register for the program by phoning HealthLink BC at 8-1-1. They also encourage you to access other provincial smoking cessation programs, such as www.quitnow.ca.

For the long version with more details, here is the Sept. 27 press release from the Office of the Premier:

B.C. rolls out program to help smokers quit

VANCOUVER – As part of a commitment to healthy families in British Columbia, Premier Christy Clark announced today that starting this Friday nicotine replacement therapies will be available at no cost and smoking cessation prescription drugs will be covered under PharmaCare.

“Each year, more than 6,000 British Columbian needlessly die from tobacco use,” said Premier Christy Clark. “By providing convenient and direct support, we are helping British Columbians live smoke-free and improve their health as well as the health of their families. By reducing the number of people who smoke, not only will we prevent or delay the onset of diseases like heart attacks and cancer but also avoid the millions of dollars cost on our health care system.”

By calling HealthLink BC at 8-1-1 and registering for the smoking cessation program, B.C. smokers who are covered by MSP and who wish to quit will be able to receive free nicotine gum or patches either by mail or at their local community pharmacy once they receive a reference number from HealthLink BC.

As part of this program, varenicline (Champix) and bupropion (Zyban) will also be covered by B.C. PharmaCare beginning Sept. 30 and will be available with a prescription. People will need to see their doctor for a prescription and be registered in a PharmaCare plan to receive coverage for these products. The level of coverage will depend on a person’s PharmaCare plan.

“Tobacco-related diseases like cancer and heart disease represent a massive burden on the lives of British Columbians and their families as well as our health care system,” said Health Minister Michael de Jong. “By calling 8-1-1, people will have access to a variety of health-related information and referrals, including our provincial stop smoking line, QuitNow Services.”

Eligible B.C. residents can receive a single continuous course of treatment lasting up to 12 consecutive weeks with either a prescription smoking cessation drug or an NRT product once every calendar year.

The estimated cost of the program is an estimated $15 million to $25 million depending on the number of individuals who use the program.

Marnie Mitchell, CEO of BC Pharmacy Association, welcomed the opportunity for pharmacists to work with the Ministry of Health on this program. She said: “For many years, community pharmacists have been helping patients through smoking cessation clinics. This program will further support this work.”

“One of the barriers that people can face when quitting smoking is the affordability of various therapies. It is very encouraging that those who are ready to quit can now hurdle this barrier by having coverage for some proven cessation aids, which will greatly increase their chances of being successful,” said Diego Marchese, CEO, BC and Yukon, of the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

“Quitting smoking can be really tough for people,” Scott McDonald, CEO of the BC Lung Association. “Quit smoking aids like nicotine gum and the patch can improve success rates.”

“Making it easier for people to quit smoking will pay off in the long run,” said Barbara Kaminsky, CEO, Canadian Cancer Society BC and Yukon. “We all know the deadly effects of cancer as a result of smoking.”

Smokers are encouraged to visit www.health.gov.bc.ca/pharmacare/stop-smoking/ and www.quitnow.ca to plan their quit first. The B.C. smoking cessation program will be available to smokers anytime after Sept. 30, so smokers can choose to register whenever they are really ready to quit.

The cost to the B.C. economy is approximately $2.3 billion annually, including $605 million for direct health-care costs.

While B.C. has the lowest smoking rate in Canada at 14.3 per cent, there are approximately 550,000 British Columbians who smoke. An estimated 70 per cent of smokers in B.C. want to quit.

QuitNow Services offers British Columbian smokers help to quit smoking 24 hours a day – www.quitnow.ca. Services include an online quit community with professional and peer support, email or text message services and a telephone quitline – now available by calling 8-1-1 – with information available in 130 languages.

Providing free support for smokers to quit tobacco supports the province’s Healthy Families BC strategy, which aims to better support the health of families and communities by helping to make the healthier choice the easier choice. For more information on Healthy Families BC, visit www.healthyfamiliesbc.ca.