“I need the patch, but I am having trouble getting through on the phone to sign up!” Ian (not his real name) said. The 42 year-old construction worker, a smoker since age 16, was finding it difficult to register with the new BC Smoking Cessation program. “Don’t give up!” I said, sympathetically.
The new provincial program that provides coverage for stop-smoking aids to British Columbians has been wildly popular since its launch on September 30. It makes sense. Smokers have said for years that the cost of smoking cessation medications is one of the biggest barriers to quitting. Now that the province is helping to offset the costs people are signing up in droves. Unfortunately that success has meant waiting a little to get through to HealthLinkBC, but wait times are getting shorter, especially in the evenings between 7 and 10 p.m., and on weekends.
How does it work? By calling HealthlinkBC at 811, people can register to receive up to twelve weeks of free nicotine patches or gum per year. Or, they can access PharmaCare coverage for medications like Zyban or Champix, with a doctor’s prescription. People don’t need to call 811 to register for the prescription drugs. The actual financial coverage depends on their PharmaCare plan.
So is a patch or pill a magic bullet? It’s always a good idea to discuss medications with your doctor. But research shows that when a person is ready to quit, stop-smoking medications can double the chances of success. And they’re even more effective when used in combination with counselling or other supports.
That’s where QuitNow Services fits in. QuitNow is free, confidential and available 24/7. People can join an online community forum with other quitters, get confidential advice by phone or sign up to receive quit tips by text.
QuitNow and HealthLinkBC have partnered to ensure a seamless customer experience between the two services, with good results. In the first seven weeks, more than 7,000 people have been engaged with QuitNow Services through the phone, web or text messaging.
Ian phoned me again with an update. “Calling in the evening worked,” he said. He now had a reference number to take to his local pharmacy, and will pick up his patches this weekend. “Great news,” I said, “and remember, however you decide to go about it, never quit quitting!”
For more information visit HealthLinkBC at www.healthlinkbc.ca, Pharmacare at www.health.gov.bc.ca/pharmacare or QuitNow Services at: www.quitnow.ca
Author: Trish Hill is a Senior Tobacco Reduction Coordinator with Interior Health.