Independent media needs you. Join the Tyee.

The Hook: Political news, freshly caught

BC expects to save money by paying for anti-smoking products

British Columbia Health Minister Michael de Jong continues to argue that paying for anti-smoking products saves the province money, contradicting the findings of a major 2010 study.

"The money we save, the money society saves, from people who quit smoking and the averted health care costs and complications, far, far, far outweigh the cost of this program," said de Jong. "Multiplied into the future, and not that far into the future, when we reduce our rate of smoking by a single percent, you measure those savings in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The savings here are great."

He made the comments while announcing that in the first six months since it's Sept. 30, 2011 start, the province's smoking cessation program has provided 104,736 orders of nicotine replacement therapies to people for free, as well as 29,000 prescriptions to smoking cessation drugs.

In 2010 the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technology published a 548-page report looking at drugs and treatments used to help people quit smoking. Providing smoking cessation products does not save health care providers money, the authors found.

"The cost of providing smoking cessation pharmacotherapy is greater than the future costs of treating smoking-related illness," they found, according to a summary for decision-makers, though it noted governments might prefer to fund prevention rather than treating disease later.

The health benefits are "relatively small" at an "average of four to 18 days of perfect health for all smokers who attempt to quit," it said. In other words, for the few who succeed at quitting, the drugs can make a large difference, but many smokers will not succeed even with the drugs' help.

While de Jong couldn't say how much money the program has cost so far, it has an annual budget of $25 million and he said it is on track.

Suzanne Gaby, the manager of Quit Now, said about 10 percent of the people in the program will likely succeed at quitting. Minister de Jong said the province plans to follow up with people after one year and after three years to track the success.

B.C. is one of only a few Canadian provinces that pay for anti-smoking products through its public health care system. Premier Christy Clark promised during her campaign to lead the B.C. Liberal party to put such a program in place.

Update, 1:50 p.m.: "If everyone who registered with our Smoking Cessation Program quit smoking, we expect we would save tens of millions of dollars," said health ministry spokesperson Ryan Jabs in an email. Direct health care costs from smoking are about $605 million a year, he said.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

Find more in:

What have we missed? What do you think? We want to know. Comment below. Keep in mind:


  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Connect with each other

Do not:

  • Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, flag suspect activity.
comments powered by Disqus