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Ministry of Health
B.C. Smoking Cessation Program

Getting Started in the B.C. Smoking Cessation Program

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This page was last updated on December 5, 2011.

When you’re ready to quit, make an appointment with your doctor, or call HealthLink BC at 8-1-1 at any time of day or night, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Getting ready to quit – first steps

You are encouraged to browse QuitNow.ca’s resources to plan your quit before getting your smoking cessation aids. To increase your chances of success, first work out a plan, and then decide on a quit date. When you are ready, the program will be there for you.

QuitNow has a wealth of resources and tools that can help you get ready to quit smoking, including:

  • a Quit Plan suite of resources to help you plan, start and manage your quit-smoking process
  • a Medication Guide that tells you about prescription smoking cessation drugs and nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products
  • stories from the community of British Columbians who have quit
  • videos on how to use nicotine gum and patches and how to avoid withdrawal symptoms by getting the correct amount of nicotine

Who should I contact to get started?

If you want medical advice about your plans to stop smoking or using tobacco…

When you are already seeing your doctor for another medical reason, or when you next see your pharmacist, ask about your options.

If you both decide you should try prescription smoking cessation drugs, your doctor will write you a prescription.

If you decide nicotine replacement therapy products (nicotine gum or patches) are best for you, register by calling HealthLink BC at 8-1-1.

If you want to try prescription smoking cessation drugs (i.e., bupropion [Zyban®] or varenicline [Champix®])…

When you are already seeing your doctor for another medical reason, ask about prescription smoking cessation drug options.

You and your doctor can decide if prescription drugs are best for you. If they are, your doctor will write you a prescription for either bupropion (Zyban®) or varenicline (Champix®).

If you want to try nicotine replacement therapy gum or patches…

Call HealthLink BC at 8-1-1.

HealthLink BC will register you for the nicotine replacement therapy products. You can have your NRT supply mailed to you or you can pick it up at your pharmacy. If you decide to pick it up, HealthLink BC will give you a reference number to take with you to the pharmacy.

If you want more information…

Call HealthLink BC at 8-1-1. HealthLink BC can tell you more about the smoking cessation program.

If you need more support, HealthLink BC will refer you to QuitNow for more information on how to quit and what might work best for you. The QuitNow staff can help you decide what’s best for you. They offer service in many different languages.

Once you’ve decided, you’ll either visit your doctor for a prescription or register with HealthLink BC for the nicotine gum or patches.

Tip: If you are taking any prescription medications or if you have any serious health issues (such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems, kidney disease, breathing problems, or pregnancy), your best plan is to talk to your doctor before you start any smoking cessation treatment.

>> Learn about another reason to think about seeing your doctor

Getting your prescription drugs

How do I get a prescription for a smoking cessation drug?

You will have to see your doctor to get a prescription for the smoking cessation drugs that PharmaCare covers. They are:

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

Depending on your medical history, your doctor may prescribe one or the other of these drugs or may recommend that you take neither drug. Instead, your doctor may recommend you try nicotine replacement therapy or some other smoking cessation strategy.

If your doctor recommends that you take bupropion (Zyban®) or varenicline (Champix®), 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.

How do I pick up my prescription?

Take your prescription to the pharmacy of your choice and ask the pharmacist to fill it. It’s a good idea to ask your pharmacist for advice on how to take the drug.

When you fill your prescription at the pharmacy for the first time, you will be given a 28-day supply of the drug. Before the end of 28 days, you’ll go back to the pharmacy for your second 28-day supply. Before the end of this second 28-day period, you’ll return for your last refill. See Getting your refills for details.

Getting your nicotine gum or patches

How do I order a supply of nicotine gum or patches?

You do not need a prescription for nicotine gum or patches. You may still want to talk to your doctor or pharmacist about your plans for using nicotine gum or patches, especially if you are taking other medications or have serious health issues. They can tell you if nicotine gum or patches might not the best choice for you.

You have to register for the nicotine replacement program with HealthLink BC before you can get the nicotine gum or patches.

Call HealthLink BC at 8-1-1 to register. When you register, HealthLink BC will ask you for the following information:

  • your B.C. Care Card number (also known as your personal health number or PHN for short)
  • your name as it appears on your B.C. Care Card
  • your preferred mailing address

HealthLink BC will also ask you several questions to make sure you are eligible and help you place your order. If you’re not sure which nicotine replacement product is best for you, HealthLink BC will ask a few questions to help you choose. If you need more support, HealthLink BC will refer you to QuitNow Services who can help you make a decision.

The B.C. Smoking Cessation Program covers 2 strengths of the Thrive™ nicotine chewing gum and 3 strengths of the Habitrol® nicotine patches. Here is a description of the nicotine gums and patches that PharmaCare covers (PDF 228K).

How do I pick up my supply of nicotine gum or patches?

You can have the nicotine gum or patches shipped directly to your home or you can pick them up at your local pharmacy. It will take from 5 to 10 business days for the products to be mailed to you, depending on where you live. You can get your nicotine gum or patches right away when you pick them up at a pharmacy.

Do I have to pay for shipping or other costs on my NRT products?

No. All costs (including shipping) are paid for by the BC Smoking Cessation Program.

Picking up your order at a pharmacy

If you decide to pick up your gum or patches at a pharmacy, HealthLink BC will give you a reference number to take to the pharmacist. Be sure to write this number down.

When you visit the pharmacy, give the pharmacist your reference number. If you have already decided which product you want, let the pharmacist know. If you would like help in deciding which product and strength is best for you, ask your pharmacist for advice. The pharmacist will then give you a supply of the product.

It’s a good idea to ask your pharmacist for advice on how to take the nicotine gum or patches.

Tip: It’s a good idea to let your doctor and pharmacist know that you are planning to take nicotine gum or patches before you start. That way, your doctor and pharmacist can take this into account when caring for your other health issues.

When you fill your order at the pharmacy for the first time, you will be given a 28-day supply of the nicotine gum or patches.

Before you run out of the gum or patches, you will need to phone HealthLink BC at 8-1-1 to get a new reference number for your second 28-day supply. When you return to the pharmacy, you’ll give the pharmacist your new reference number and get your refill.

Before the end of this second 28-day period, you’ll phone HealthLink BC for a new reference number so you can pick up your last refill. See Getting your refills for details.

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