Six months after the B.C. government launched its smoking cessation program, Interior Health region residents are in second place for the number of people accessing the free program.
The Smoking Cessation Program gives smokers wishing to quit the habit access to cessation products such as patches or prescriptions for free.
People hoping to quit smoking can dial 8-1-1 to access the program. They will be given a number which they can either take to their family doctor or their pharmacist, depending on what products they would like to access. For patches and gum, the number can be taken to the pharmacy, but for smoking cessation drugs like Zyban or Champix, the patient must ask his or her doctor for a prescription. It can then be filled free of charge. The program covers a 12-week supply of patches, gum or prescription drugs.
Trish Hill, senior tobacco reduction co-ordinator with Interior Health, said the benefits of quitting smoking are obvious even after 24 hours regardless of how long you've smoked for.
"The key thing is no matter how long we've smoke, it's never too late to quit, our bodies will forgive us," she said.
Within 24 hours, Hill said blood pressure and heart rate will drop down to a healthier level. After a few weeks of not smoking, breathing becomes easier and the patient will notice increased ability to exercise. Over time the risk of cancer and heart attack subsides.
The region covered by Interhior Health is currently second only to the Fraser Health Authority, for number of patients who have called in to access the smoking cessation program. Hill said that demand isn't slowing down, either.
"There is tons of interest in Interior Health for smoking cessation," she said.
Hill said the most common call she receives from residents is that they would like to quit smoking but need help. She is excited that the government has committed to the program, and has given it no end date.
"It's not sort of just a flash in the pan," she said.
Interior Health will see the benefits of less smokers in the region, Hill said, with less hospital visits for patients who smoke.
"People who quit smoking are much less likely to become ill in subsequent years," Hill said.
Across the province, more than 100,000 people have called in to access the program. The program was officially launched in September 2011. Patients can also access help through QuitNow, which has received 15,800 new registrants since the program started. QuitNow is operated by the BC Lung Association
Smoking cessation drugs like Zyban and Champix, which are covered under the program, work on the brain to manage withdrawal symptoms, cravings, and reduce the urge to smoke.