British Columbia boasts the lowest smoking rate in the country at 14 per cent – but that means that more than 500,000 people in this province smoke.
So in 2011, the government introduced a program that made nicotine gum and nicotine patches free to those who registered with its BC Smoking Cessation Program. Over the past five years, it has cost the government $38 million, but since then, 187,000 smokers have taken advantage of the program, a quarter of all smokers in B.C.
Originally, smokers had to register with Health Link BC by calling 8-1-1 before being able to pick up their patches and gum at a pharmacy. Every month they had to call to be interviewed by a nurse, but now in the new program, they no longer have to do this.
Now, the Ministry of Health is making it easier for smokers who want to kick the habit in 2016. Any B.C. resident who smokes can now go to their local pharmacy, fill in a simple form and get what they need. Users of the program can get 12 weeks of therapy (both nicotine replacement, and Zyban or Champix with a doctors prescription) per year.
“Those who decide to quit are fragile and don’t want a time delay or they may not quit that day. But if you can see a pharmacist and it’s easy to do that removes a barrier,” said Scott McDonald with the Lung Association BC.
B.C. Pharmacy Association CEO Geraldine Vance says pharmacists are committed to helping patients lead healthier lives and want to assist smokers with making 2016 the year they quit successfully.
– With files from The Canadian Press