Latimer: Province offers help to smokers
I was very happy to learn recently of the province’s plan to give some help to people trying to quit smoking.
As of Sept. 30, 2011, smokers who want to kick the habit can get a free 12-week supply of nicotine gum or patches or a free prescription for smoking cessation medication through the B.C. Pharmacare program.
Finally, a proactive step by the government to help make British Columbians healthier.
Until now, these products were not reimbursed.
One medication frequently used for smoking cessation is bupropion.
This is also an antidepressant and when prescribing this for depression doctors have until now had to apply for ‘special authority’ for it to be covered by Pharmacare.
In order to be approved we had to attest that we were not prescribing it for smoking cessation.
If it was being prescribed for smoking cessation, Pharmacare would not cover it. Most physicians have always thought this policy was foolish.
Considering that tobacco is the largest single cause of premature death and disease in our province, it makes sense to help those who want to quit be successful.
The program will cost approximately $15 million to $25 million to implement, but will likely save money in the long run by helping ensure a healthier future for many in our province.
It is generally less costly to prevent serious illness than to treat it once it occurs.
According to our provincial health minister, right now more than 6,000 people die in our province every year from tobacco use and the cost to our economy is roughly $2.3 billion a year including more than $600 million in direct health care costs.
Although we have the lowest smoking rate in Canada at just under 15 per cent, that is still a staggering 550,000 people in our province who smoke and put themselves and their families at risk of many health complications such as several forms of cancer, stroke, high blood pressure, heart disease, emphysema and even dementia.
Many people want to quit but find it very difficult without some extra support.
Since it is a chemical addiction, it often takes more than simply will power to permanently butt out.
Individuals with co-existing psychiatric disorders such as depression, ADHD or schizophrenia often have a particularly hard time quitting and need added help in order to be successful.
I applaud the government’s decision to finally take a direct step toward offering some support in this area and joining a few other provinces already leading the way in this area, including Quebec, Prince Edward Island, the Yukon and Saskatchewan.
If you want to quit smoking, I encourage you to go for it.
Speak with your doctor and come up with a plan that will work for you.
Use the tools that are available and enlist the help of those you love and trust.
It may be difficult, but quitting smoking is possible.
Not only will quitting improve your quality of life, but it will also increase your chances of having a long and healthy one.
Paul Latimer is a psychiatrist and president of Okanagan Clinical Trials.