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Ministry of Health
B.C. Smoking Cessation Program

Frequently Asked Questions

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This page was last updated on December 5, 2011.

Will I have to pay anything for my smoking cessation medications?

Prescription smoking cessation drugs

You will not have to pay anything for smoking cessation prescription drugs if you are covered under one of the following PharmaCare plans:

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

You may have to pay for your smoking cessation prescription drugs if you are registered in the Fair PharmaCare plan.

Here’s how it works. If at the time you fill your prescription,

  • you have not met your family’s annual deductible, you have to pay all of the cost. The drug’s eligible cost will count toward your Fair PharmaCare deductible.
  • you have met your family’s annual deductible but you have not met your family maximum, Fair PharmaCare covers 70% of the eligible cost. You pay the remaining 30%.
    • Note: If you were born before 1940, Fair PharmaCare covers 75% of the eligible cost.
  • you have met your annual deductible and family maximum, Fair PharmaCare covers 100% of the eligible cost.

Non-prescription nicotine gum or patches

Each calendar year, you can get a single continuous course of nicotine gum or patch treatment lasting up to 12 weeks (84 days) in a row. You will not have to pay anything for the nicotine gum or patches.

Why are nicotine gum or patches free and prescription drugs are not?

PharmaCare covers the smoking cessation prescription drugs bupropion (Zyban®) and varenicline (Champix®) in exactly the same way as all other eligible prescription drugs.

Government has elected to provide 100% coverage of NRTs because they are the most accessible form of smoking cessation aid and government wants to give as many people as possible the opportunity to stop smoking.

How much coverage do I get each year?

You get up to 12 weeks (84 continuous days) of coverage for one prescription drug or one kind of nicotine gum or patch in a calendar year (January 1 through December 31). You must order or pick up all of your prescription drug or nicotine gum or patch supply by the end of the 84th day of coverage.

See What happens if I start treatment in one year and finish in the next year? below if you won’t complete your treatment by December 31.

How much medication can I get at a time?

You can get a 4-week (28-day) supply of a prescription smoking cessation drug or NRT product at a time. During the 12-week course of treatment you can get three 4-week fills. See Why only a 4-week supply? for the reasons for this limit.

When do you start counting the 12 weeks of treatment?

The 12-week (84-day) coverage period starts when you:

  • fill your first prescription at a pharmacy, OR
  • pick up your first order of nicotine gum or patches at a pharmacy, OR
  • place your order for the gum or patches with HealthLink BC (when you’ve asked us to mail the supplies to your home)

What is the earliest in a year that I can start? What is the latest?

Starting January 1 of every year, a new coverage year begins and your coverage allowance is reset to 84 consecutive days (12 weeks) for that year.

The latest you could start your treatment and still obtain all three fills of medication in the same calendar year is November 6. You can choose to start later than November 6, but you will not use the full 12 weeks of coverage for that calendar year.

What happens if I start treatment in one year and finish in the next year?

You can continue treatment with the gum, patch or prescription drugs in the new year by using your 12‑week coverage allowance for the following year. (If needed, you would be eligible for coverage again in 2013.)

I won't finish my treatment before December 31. Is there any special action I have to take?

When taking prescription smoking cessation drugs

You do not have to take any special action.

When taking non-prescription nicotine gums and patches

You will have to phone HealthLink BC at 8-1-1 in the new year to get a reference number valid for that calendar year.

I got a reference number for NRTs before December 31. Can I use it on or after January 1?

No. You cannot use a reference number issued in the old year to pick up gum or patches in the new year (e.g., you cannot use a 2011 reference number to pick up NRTs in 2012).

You must phone HealthLink BC at 8-1-1 on or after January 1 to get a new reference number.

Can I start treatment, stop for a couple of months and then start again?


Clinical studies show that people are more likely to successfully quit smoking after sticking to a course of treatment for 12 weeks in a row. The Ministry of Health wants to encourage people to complete a full and continuous course of treatment to maximize their chances of success. For this reason, the program covers only a single period of up to 12 weeks in a row.

PharmaCare will cover each fill of your smoking cessation prescription drugs or nicotine gum or patches only if it is picked up or ordered within the 12-week coverage period.

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