Pharmacist Linda Seib shows nicotine replacements products available through B.C.’s Smoking Cessation program. As of Jan. 1 participants can drop into a pharmacy to access help and free replacement therapies. Seib advises those wanting to quit that program products like patches or inhalers

Pharmacist Linda Seib shows nicotine replacements products available through B.C.’s Smoking Cessation program. As of Jan. 1 participants can drop into a pharmacy to access help and free replacement therapies. Seib advises those wanting to quit that program products like patches or inhalers

Free help, more choices to quit smoking

Smokers wanting to butt out this year can head to their local pharmacy for help and free nicotine replacements.

Smokers wanting to butt out this year can head to their local pharmacy for help and free nicotine replacements.

Pharmacist Linda Seib says people have already dropped into Shoppers Drug Mart and joined B.C.’s Smoking Cessation program following the Jan. 1 change that allows smokers ease of access to kick the habit.

Prior to the new year, anyone wanting to quit tobacco had to call HealthLink BC to join the program, then monthly thereafter to refill nicotine therapies such as patches or gum.

“Just visit your pharmacy, no need to call 8-1-1 (HealthLink)” explained Seib. “You will be asked to sign a declaration form whether you receive nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) or prescription smoking cessations drugs,” she added. “This is your acknowledgement that you can be contacted by Pharmacare for the purpose of program evaluation and planning.”

Nicorette products are covered under the expanded program, that now includes lozenges and inhalers as well as gum and patches.

“Smoking continues to be the number one cause of preventable death in Canada,” said Seib. “People can access this program for 84 consecutive days once a calendar year.”

Champix or Zyban, two oral drugs, are also covered, but a doctor’s prescription is required.

As before, the medications are covered based on an individual’s annual Pharmacare deductible, Seib added.

The provincial smoking cessation program has helped thousands of British Columbians work toward a tobacco-free life, according to the Ministry of Health.

B.C. has invested more than $38 million into the program since 2011, and more than 187,000 have used the program to try to quit – which amounts to 25 per cent of smokers.

A recent evaluation of the NRT program shows it helped people attempt to quit and be successful.

The ministry completed a survey of 3,000 smokers last year who used replacement therapy as part of quitting.

More than one quarter of the people surveyed had quit smoking, and more than half had managed to quite for a month or longer.

Three-quarters of participants said they smoked less after participating in the program, and 65 per cent agreed the program helped or was currently helping them kick the habit.

Another free service to support smoking cessation is a program courtesy the BC Lung Association, called QuitNow.

By visiting QuitNow.ca, smokers can chat with experts, request ongoing phone supports and sign up for an e-newsletter and daily inspiration through e-tips.

QuitNow is designed to help people quit smoking and stay smoke-free. All the services are completely free to use.