B.C. makes quitting smoking easier

Participants can register at a pharmacy, and receive 12 weeks worth of nicotine inhalers or lozenges as well as patches or gum

B.C. smokers can get free nicotine replacement products for 12 weeks

The B.C. government’s quit-smoking assistance program is now available to people who drop by a pharmacy to qualify for free nicotine replacement products.

As of Jan. 1, 2016, participants no longer have to register by calling 8-1-1 to reach the HealthLinkBC medical advice service. The program has also expanded its offerings to include nicotine inhalers and lozenges as well as gum and patches.

Health Minister Terry Lake said the changes are to make it easier for smokers to quit, or to try again if they have relapsed after using the program before. It supplies 12 weeks’ worth of nicotine replacement products in each calendar year to B.C. residents.

To qualify, people must have active Medical Services Plan coverage and be a tobacco smoker or chewer.

The program began in 2011 and the province has spent $38 million on it so far. A survey of 3,000 users in 2015 found that about one in four reported quitting smoking for some period, with half of those making it a month or more smoke free. Three quarters of survey participants reported smoking less after using nicotine replacement.

The program also covers 12 weeks of prescription drugs Zyban or Champix, with cost depending on coverage under the Pharmacare program. Details are available here or from your doctor.