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Ministry of Health
B.C. Smoking Cessation Program

An Introduction

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This page was last updated on February 22, 2012.

What is the B.C. Smoking Cessation Program?

The B.C. government’s Smoking Cessation Program helps you stop smoking or using other tobacco products by helping you with the cost of smoking cessation aids.

Prescription smoking cessation drugs are covered as benefits under PharmaCare. Non-prescription nicotine replacement therapy products (NRTs) are provided at no cost.

The program is open to eligible B.C. residents who wish to stop smoking or using other tobacco products.

What does the program cover?

The program covers two types of smoking cessation aids:

  1. Prescription smoking cessation drugs
    • bupropion (brand name Zyban®)
    • varenicline (brand name Champix®)
  2. OR

  3. Non-prescription nicotine replacement therapy NRT gum or patches
    • Thrive™ nicotine chewing gum (in two strengths)
    • Habitrol® nicotine patches (in three strengths)

What are prescription smoking cessation drugs?

Prescription smoking cessation drugs do not contain nicotine but work on the brain to manage withdrawal symptoms and cravings and reduce your urge to smoke. When you are already seeing your doctor for another medical reason, ask about whether these drugs would work for you. You can also phone 8-1-1 and ask to speak to a QuitNow CareCoach about what options would work for you.

What are nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products?

NRTs are non-prescription medications that contain nicotine. They work to reduce withdrawal symptoms by replacing the nicotine you would get through smoking. With NRT products, you can reduce the amount of nicotine gradually and handle withdrawal symptoms more easily.

How much coverage can people get?

Each calendar year (starting on January 1 and ending on December 31), eligible B.C residents will be able to get up to 12 continuous weeks (84 continuous days) of coverage for either

  • one prescription smoking cessation drug, OR
  • one nicotine replacement therapy product (gum or patch)

PharmaCare covers the two prescription smoking cessation drugs the same way it covers other prescription drugs: the actual coverage you get depends on the rules of your PharmaCare plan which may pay for all, part or none of the cost. See Will I have to pay anything for my smoking-cessation medications? for details.

The B.C. Smoking Cessation Program covers 100% of the cost of Thrive™ nicotine chewing gum and Habitrol® nicotine patches.

Who can take part?

Nicotine gum or patches are available at no cost to any B.C. resident who

  • smokes or uses another tobacco product (e.g., takes snuff, chews tobacco)
  • has active Medical Services Plan coverage

Prescription smoking cessation drug coverage is available to any B.C. resident who

Who cannot take part?

How does it work?

Patients have two treatment options.

Treatment Option 1 - Prescription smoking cessation drugs

To get coverage for bupropion (Zyban®) or varenicline (Champix®), you must be registered in Fair PharmaCare or be covered under one of the following PharmaCare plans:

You will need a prescription for bupropion or varenicline. You do not need to register through HealthLink BC to get coverage for these drugs.

Treatment Option 2 - Non-prescription nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products

You can get nicotine gum or patches without seeing your doctor. Register for nicotine replacement products by calling HealthLink BC at 8-1-1. Once you have registered, you can choose to pick up your nicotine replacement products at a pharmacy or have them mailed to your home.

Do I have to pay for nicotine gum, nicotine patches or smoking-cessation prescription drugs?

Nicotine gum and patches are free.

You do not have to pay for prescription drugs if you are covered by one of the following PharmaCare plans:

  • Permanent Residents of Licensed Residential Care Facilities plan (Plan B)
  • Recipients of B.C. Income Assistance plan (Plan C)
  • No-Charge Psychiatric Medication plan (Plan G)

If you are covered by Fair PharmaCare, you might have to pay part or even all of the cost of the prescription drugs. See Will I have to pay anything for my smoking-cessation medications? for details.

Nicotine gum and patches are free.

For more information, visit these pages

Patients Pharmacists Prescribers

More information on

  • how the program works
  • what prescription drugs and nicotine gum and patches are covered
  • how prescription coverage works
  • how to get started
  • how to get refills

and a host of other questions

More information on

  • advising patients in choosing the appropriate nicotine replacement product
  • obtaining supplies
  • processing claims for prescription drugs and nicotine gum and patches

More information on

  • coverage details for nicotine gum and patches and prescription drugs
  • Special Authority requirements for switching smoking cessation medications
  • clinical resources
  • stop-smoking resources for your patients