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NEWS RELEASE · 27th September 2011
Ministry of Health
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 and 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 - 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
Just a thought.
Comment by Helmut Giesbrecht on 28th September 2011
There are people who are ill and need assistance through no fault of their own or at least they didn't make the choice to engage in a risky behavor, and they have to pay their own way. This program does not have a low income qualification as Pharmacare does for all other drug therapy.

How do you determine if the person is really serious about quitting. If the price of the drug is a deterrent, maybe they are not determined enough to quit?
see your pharmacist or doctor to get started
Comment by Travis Titcomb on 27th September 2011
As a Pharmacist, I want everyone know that this program can be initiated in one of three ways: a visit to your Pharmacist (who can help you choose the best option for you and refer you to your physician if a prescription is required), a visit to your doctor, or by calling to registration line provided in the article. Nicotine patches and gum can be provided by your pharmacist if that option is best for you. You will be provided with a four week supply of the chosen medication at a time, so that you can meet with your pharmacist or doctor to follow up on your progress throughout the twelve weeks of therapy. The QuitNow services, your pharmacist, and your doctor can all provide advice and support throughout your quitting process. If you have tried to quit in the past and one of the available options did not work for you (patches, gum, Champix, Zyban), there are still other options for you to try.
We should get an Accountability print-out.
Comment by Maggie Jo on 27th September 2011
I appreciate the QuitNow Services offered to British Columbians. This incentive to help people stay healthier could take a load of financial pressure off our Medical Care Plans, lest our protective system turns Privatized.

Which reminds me. Every time you go to the you realize how much that costs your Medical Plan? ER visits are extremely COSTLY and thankfully the BC MED PlANS pay for that while we contribute to the plan thru our bi-weekly pay cheques.

In any event, 'might be an idea that every tax year individuals/families receive a mailed printout of what their Medical Plans paid for on their behalf the prior year. I'm sure we would all be utterly aghast at how the figures very quickly add up over a 12 month period.

If I got a print out like that I might have thought twice about tapping out our Medical Plan by going to the ER for a sliver removal when my MOM could'a just yanked it out and poured raw whiskey all over the wound in dissinfecting purposes. Clap Clap. Done.

But, NO! I am a citizen of this Province and I pay into my medical plan, so I DESERVE to be served at the ER for my weenie teenie "barely embedded in the skin" sliver.

Get my point here people?

Yeah, I TOTALLY think all residents of BC should get a printout every tax year for record keeping/educational purposes. We might be surprised at how well we have been served to date while we simply hand along "the bill" to our Medical Plan to pay for.
On the bright side.
Comment by Karen on 27th September 2011
British Columbia has been more successful in reducing the number of smokers than any other province in the country. According to 2010 statistics 22% of Canadians, 12 and over, smoke. British Columbians can pride themselves at being at 14.5%!

I don't know where Christy got her estimated number of smoking deaths of 6,000 when the Canadian Cancer Society has determined that 2,500 men and women will die from this form of cancer this year. In 2007 2,274 people in B.C. died from lung cancer, 2,257 people in 2009.

Although this is a necessary and honourable cause I wonder just how sincere Christy is when she doesn't make the effort to be more accurate with her predictions.