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Ministry of Health
B.C. Smoking Cessation Program

Program Overview

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The B.C. government’s Smoking Cessation Program helps eligible B.C. residents  stop smoking or stop using other tobacco products by assisting them with the cost of smoking cessation aids such as prescription drugs or nicotine replacement therapy products (nicotine gum or patches).

>> See What are smoking cessation prescription drugs? and What are nicotine replacement therapy products? for details.

There are two treatment options:

  1. Prescription smoking cessation drugs – you can choose one of the two drugs that are covered
  2. Non-prescription nicotine replacement therapy products – you can choose one of the two products that are offered.

Eligible residents will be covered for one or the other treatment option described below, but not both.

Doctors, pharmacists and HealthLink BC can help people decide which option is best for them. HealthLink BC can be reached by phoning 8-1-1.

>> Diagram of how patients can get smoking cessation products (PDF 220K).

Treatment Option 1 - Prescription smoking cessation drugs

What is covered

PharmaCare covers two prescription smoking cessation drugs:

  • bupropion (brand name Zyban®)
  • varenicline (brand name Champix®)

PharmaCare covers these drugs the same way it covers other prescription drugs. To get coverage for them, you have to be registered for Fair PharmaCare* or covered by one of the following PharmaCare plans:

* Fair PharmaCare is the income-based plan for which any B.C. resident can register.

Each calendar year, PharmaCare will cover one prescription smoking cessation drug for a single continuous course of treatment. A course of treatment lasts up to 12 weeks (84 days) in a row.

What you have to do

  1. You will have to be covered under a PharmaCare plan. Most people need to register for Fair PharmaCare. Registration is free and there are no premiums to pay.

    Most people are already registered for Fair PharmaCare. If you are not sure whether you’re already registered, phone Health Insurance BC. They can help you register.

  2. When you are already seeing your doctor for another medical reason, ask about a prescription for these drugs. Depending on your medical history, your doctor may prescribe one of these drugs or may recommend that you take neither drug. Instead, your doctor may recommend you try nicotine replacement therapy products or some other smoking cessation strategy.

    If your doctor recommends that you take a prescription drug, he/she will give you a prescription that you can fill at your pharmacy. Your doctor will also give you advice on how best to take the drug to improve your chances of quitting tobacco.

>> Learn more about how you can get the prescription drugs

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

What is covered

The B.C. Smoking Cessation Program covers 2 strengths of the Thrive™ nicotine chewing gum and 3 strengths of the Habitrol® nicotine patches.

Each calendar year, eligible B.C. residents can receive one nicotine therapy product (either nicotine gum or nicotine patches) at no cost for a single continuous course of treatment. A course of treatment lasts up to 12 weeks (84 days) in a row.

Here is a list of the nicotine replacement therapy products (PDF 228K) that are covered.

What you have to do

You can get nicotine gum or patches without having to see your doctor. You do not have to be registered in a PharmaCare plan to receive coverage for the gum or patches.

  1. You may want to talk to your pharmacist or doctor first to determine whether you should take NRT products. You may need to check with your pharmacist or doctor before registering for NRT coverage if you
    • are pregnant
    • are breastfeeding
    • have any chronic medical conditions
    • were recently in the hospital
    • take any regular medications
  2. You will have to register for the program with HealthLink BC by calling 8-1-1 to get coverage for the nicotine gum or patches. Once you have registered, you can choose to either have the products mailed directly to you, or pick them up at your local pharmacy. The mail option will take from 5 to 10 business days, depending on where you live. You can get your nicotine gum or patches right away when you pick them up at a pharmacy.

>> Learn more about how you can get the gum or patches

Further information

Information about smoking cessation prescription drugs and nicotine gum and patches:

  • QuitNow’s Quit Medication Guide explains how smoking cessation medications work and how best to take them; it also provides information on who should not take nicotine gum or patches.
  • QuitNow’s website has lots of other resources to help you stop using tobacco. You can also reach QuitNow through HealthLink BC’s free confidential helpline at 8-1-1 at any time of day or night.

>> Find answers to Frequently asked questions about B.C. Smoking Cessation Program coverage.

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