B.C. Lung Association CEO Scott McDonald says B.C.'s quit-smoking program is working well.

British Columbia’s quit-smoking program still popular

The B.C. government's quit-smoking program has hit the six-month mark, is still being well utilized.

The B.C. government’s quit-smoking program has hit the six-month mark, with more than 100,000 orders for free nicotine patches, gum or anti-smoking drugs.

Health Minister Mike de Jong said Wednesday about half of those are first-time applicants, for a program that allows up to two refills of 12-week supplies of quit-smoking aids. The 50,000 people represent about nine per cent of the 550,000 people in B.C. who still smoke.

Scott McDonald, CEO of the B.C. Lung Association, said 15 per cent of B.C. residents smoke, the lowest rate in Canada. But that is still too many.

“About 70 per cent of habitual smokers want to kick the habit, and we want to motivate them to make an attempt,” McDonald said. “They’re not always successful.”

The Lung Association estimates that when people try to quit cold turkey, they are only successful between four and six per cent of the time. With the help of nicotine patches, gum or prescription drugs, that success rate doubles, and with the help of counselling available through the program it improves again, so the association expects about 10 per cent of people in the B.C. program will end up quitting for good.

De Jong said even with that success rate, the program is a good investment because it saves the province “much, much more” by avoiding smoking-related cancer and other diseases.

B.C. residents may apply to get gum or patches by calling 8-1-1. Or Pharmacare will cover the cost of a 12-week supply of Champix or Zyban, if prescribed by a doctor to ease withdrawal from smoking.

The 8-1-1 line to HealthLink BC provides general health advice, and can refer callers to telephone support for those trying to quit smoking. Starting in May, the program website www.quitnow.ca will also offer the option of real-time chat with a counsellor.