04/18/2012 07:09 EDT | Updated 06/18/2012 05:12 EDT

B.C. Stop Smoking Program Gets 100,000 Orders For Free Products In 6 Months


VICTORIA - A B.C. government program that offers people free products like prescription drugs and nicotine patches to help them stop smoking has racked up 100,000 orders in its first six months.

The government will provide smokers with a single course of a prescribed smoking cessation drug like Champix and Zyban, or a free 12-week supply of nicotine replacement gum or patches.

The program, which began Sept. 30, allows B.C. residents enrolled in the Medical Services Plan to get PharmaCare coverage for the products for one calendar year.

It's estimated the products will cost the government up to $25 million, but Health Minister Mike de Jong says the health savings from people quitting smoking far outweigh what the province is spending on the program.

Smokers can get help by calling the 811 health line or going to the QuitNow website, and the government is enhancing the site at the end of April with a live-chat service where counsellors can coach smokers in their efforts to quit.