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Quitting? Head to your pharmacy for free help, more choices

The provincial government is making it easier than ever to get help kicking the smoking habit. - File photo
The provincial government is making it easier than ever to get help kicking the smoking habit.
— image credit: File photo

VICTORIA - If your New Year's resolution is to quit smoking, all you need to do is visit your local pharmacy, announced Health Minister Terry Lake today.

As of Jan. 1, 2016, smokers who want to quit no longer need to call HealthLink BC at 8-1-1 to join the British Columbia Smoking Cessation Program. Instead, they can join the program and access free nicotine replacement therapy products just by visiting any community pharmacy in the province.

The program is adding more nicotine replacement choices for people trying to quit. Smokers now have the option of choosing nicotine lozenges or inhalers, as well as nicotine gum and the nicotine skin patch previously paid for by the program.

"We changed the program to make it easier for people who are trying to quit smoking, or trying again," said Lake. "I have seen friends and family struggle to break their terrible addiction to cigarettes. I hope this improved program helps others avoid the same struggle and the health problems that come from smoking."

Community pharmacies in every region of British Columbia are ready to help people sign up, starting New Year's Day.

"We're happy to help people who want to make 2016 the year they quit smoking," said Geraldine Vance, CEO of the BC Pharmacy Association. "Community pharmacists are accessible and committed to helping patients live healthier lives."

The new nicotine replacement therapy options were added to the program after the Ministry of Health held a request for proposals from interested suppliers. The successful bid was from Johnson and Johnson Inc., for Nicorette- and Nicoderm-brand products.

"We've co-operated closely with the Smoking Cessation Program for years, helping people get the support they need to quit. These changes are smart improvements to an already effective program," said Scott McDonald, CEO of the B.C. Lung Association. "After people pick up their free nicotine replacement products, I encourage them to contact Quit

Now, our free support program for people trying to quit smoking or other tobacco use."

B.C.'s Smoking Cessation Program has helped thousands of British Columbians work toward a tobacco-free life. It covers nicotine replacement therapy products, as well as the prescription drugs Champix (varenicline) and Zyban (bupropion).

Since it began in 2011, the Province has invested more than $38 million into the program. More than 187,000 have used the program to try to quit. That's 25 per cent of British Columbians who smoke.

Recent evaluation of the program's nicotine replacement therapy shows it helps people attempt to quit, and to be successful.

The Ministry of Health completed a survey this year of 3,000 smokers who used nicotine replacement therapy as part of the program. More than a quarter of the people surveyed had quit smoking. More than half had managed to quit for a month or longer, an important step toward becoming smoke-free for life. Three-quarters smoked less after participating in the program, and 65% agreed the program helped or is helping them try to quit smoking.

The survey is available here:

https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/health/practitioner-professional-resources/pharmacare/pharmacare-publications#studies

 

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