Province offering smokers a lifeline

For years, governments of all political stripes have played lip-service to helping smokers kick the habit. But now Premier Christy Clark is putting the B.C. government’s money where their mouth is.

For years, governments of all political stripes have played lip-service to helping smokers kick the habit. But now Premier Christy Clark is putting the B.C. government’s money where their mouth is.

Beginning Sept. 30, nicotine replacement therapies will be available to all British Columbians at no cost and smoking cessation prescription drugs will be covered under PharmaCare.

That will come as good news to the more than 500,000 smokers in B.C., as an estimated 70 per cent would like to quit.

“For some people wanting to quit, having to pay for these therapies is a barrier in helping them achieve success. Providing this additional support is certain to make a difference,” said Diego Marchese with the Heart and Stroke Foundation of B.C. and Yukon.

Governments, both federal and provincial, have long used a constant stream of tax increases as a way to deter people from smoking. But without directing funds towards efforts to reduce the number of smokers, it left many with the impression that tobacco products were simply another revenue stream for government.

The provincial initiative will provide B.C. smokers with a free supply of nicotine gum or patches for up to 12 weeks, or allow them to prescription drugs through PharmaCare. Studies have shown that these products can double, triple or even quadruple the likelihood of successfully quitting smoking.

While the program is expected to cost up to $25 million, the return on the province’s investment will be significant. Each year more than 6,000 British Columbians die from tobacco use, resulting in $605 million in direct health care costs.

And when you factor in the human costs associated with cancer and heart disease brought on by smoking, that $25 million — which amounts to less than the cost of a pack of smokes for each B.C. resident — will pay dividends for generations to come.

— Penticton Western News