By Keating Smith, Contributor
The provincial government is encouraging British Columbians to quit the dirty habit of smoking tobacco. In fact, they are so intent on it that they will pay for smoking cessation products for anybody who smokes on a daily basis in the province. The BC Smoking Cessation Program is proving to already be successful just one year after its launch. Over 7,000 nicotine replacement therapy orders were placed in the first week of the program last fall, and politicians are deeming the program to be quite successful.
So how does this all work? If you are a BC resident, you are eligible for one 12-week course of treatment of gum or patches, at no charge, per calendar year. You must have active Medical Services Plan of BC coverage to be eligible. Simply dial HealthLink BC’s 24-hour hot line at 811—not 911—and follow the directions of the automated menu, as there are several options to choose from that relate to other health and medical issues. Depending on when you call, you may or may not be on hold for quite some time before speaking to a health specialist operator. You are asked a series of questions regarding your nicotine habit, your CareCard number, and are asked what smoking aid you would prefer to use. The nicotine patch and gum are free and can be picked up from any local pharmacy when you receive your reference number from the operator. You can also have your smoking aids delivered to your home. The program covers two prescription smoking cessation drugs (bupropion, the generic version of Zyban®, and varenicline, the generic version of Champix®) under the PharmaCare program. You should schedule an appointment to see your doctor to discuss whether a prescription drug is the best choice for you. You do not need to register through HealthLink BC at 811 for the prescription drugs. Overall, the questionnaire and visit to the pharmacist takes less time to do than having a cigarette.
I highly urge anyone to consider quitting smoking. I smoked for nearly 15 years and I’m now one month into using the patch; I can already notice huge differences in my physical and mental health.
If you have never used a smoking cessation aid before, there are a few things I should mention.
First off, do not smoke while on the patch, especially if you are on the 20-milligram dose. You will either become light-headed, faint, or even nauseous. It’s pure nicotine overload for your body. I would also recommend taking the patch off at night unless you want to have a very restless sleep with vivid dreams. I accidentally left a patch on a few weeks ago while sleeping and although it was really nice to bump into every girl I’ve dated in my life while shopping for drywall screws at the grocery store, I didn’t enjoy being exhausted the next day. Also, be prepared for a huge “nic” rush in the morning. I recommend you put it on after you shower or leave the house for the day.
Second, the gum tastes terrible. Get the orange flavour and try to avoid the cinnamon-flavoured one, as the combination of the nicotine and cinnamon will make you dry heave and salivate excessively. You should also avoid chewing it like regular gum. If you can, take a few bites every minute and stash it in your cheek.
Nicotine is arguably one of the most addictive substances in the world. According to the World Health Organization “the tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced. It kills nearly six million people a year, of whom more than five million are users and ex-users, and more than 600,000 are non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke.” In British Columbia, roughly 16 per cent of the population smokes on a daily basis, according to a 2006 census.
Good luck on your endeavor to tame tobacco!