09/27/2011 01:08 EDT | Updated 11/27/2011 05:12 EST

B.C. to give smokers free nicotine drugs to help them kick the habit

VANCOUVER - When it comes to butting out, the B.C. government is leaving smokers with no excuses.

Premier Christy Clark says that starting this Friday, nicotine replacement therapies such as patches or gum will be available for free, while Pharmacare will cover prescription drugs to help smokers kick the habit.

To get the free drugs, participants must call HealthLink BC at 811 to register for the smoking cessation program and get a reference number.

They can then use that number to receive up to 12 consecutive weeks of prescription drugs or nicotine replacement therapy annually.

Depending on the number of participants, the program will cost the province between $15 million and $25 million.

Clark says the benefits will allow British Columbians to live smoke free and improve their health.