September 1, 2010 - The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) Journal is calling on provincial governments to publicly fund medications designed to help Canadians quit smoking, but Alberta is closing the door on the idea for now. In an editorial published Monday, August 30th the authors suggest tax revenues collected on the sale of tobacco products could fund reimbursement for smoking cessation therapies.
Five and a half million Canadians — or 19 percent — use tobacco, according to the editorial, and that number has remained stagnant in recent years in spite of provincial and federal programs meant to help Canadians quit.
Among provinces, Alberta and Nova Scotia had the highest smoking rate, at 23.3 per cent.
Quebec is the only province that funds all drugs to help people quit smoking, while Yukon and Prince Edward Island reimburse residents for at least one product.
Alberta Health spokesman Howard May said the province is not planning at the moment to examine whether it should finance medications to help Albertans quit smoking. He added it's too early to say whether Alberta's stance would change in light of the medical association editorial.
In recent years, the Alberta has introduced several measures to curb cigarette use, including hiking tobacco taxes, banning smoking in public places, and prohibiting tobacco sales in pharmacies. "If you compare us to other provinces, we've got some of the most aggressive and progressive anti-smoking programs," May said.
In B.C., the government has begun a review of smoking-cessation products, including nicotine-replacement therapies and prescription drugs.
The medical association editorial suggests policy-makers don't understand that the cost of smoking cessation therapies is a barrier for some smokers who want to stop.
A spokesperson from Ontario Ministry of Health Promotion and Sport reminded people that quit-smoking rates are higher when counselling is provided along with smoking-cessation therapies. Ontario is in the process of developing a new five-year strategy to combat tobacco use in the province.
References: Alberta rejects therapy to quit smoking, Postmedia News and Calgary Herald, 8/31/2010; Medical journal calls on provinces to fund quit-smoking drugs by Allison Cross, Postmedia News, The Star Phoenix, 8/30/2010.