Quitting smoking? Free cessation programs available at pharmacies Jan. 1

The B.C. government has announced a key tweak to its smoking cessation program. As of Jan. 1, all you need to do is head to your local pharmacy to register to get free smoking cessation products like the patch or antidepressants.

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A recent youth drug survey shows more Revelstoke youth are smoking. Creative Commons image by DucDigital. https://www.flickr.com/photos/ducdigital/

The B.C. government has announced a key tweak to its smoking cessation program. Currently, you have to call a government health number to enroll in the program, but as of Jan. 1, all you need to do is head to your local pharmacy to register to get free smoking cessation products like the patch or antidepressants.

Here’s the details from a Dec. 30 B.C. government media release:

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 cooperated 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).

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