Quitting

Methods and medications

There are many effective ways to quit smoking, and no one way works for everyone. To increase your chances of quitting for good, it’s helpful to know which evidence-based methods have been proven to increase your odds of success. Evidence shows that combining telephone counselling with medications or NRT can increase your chances of successfully quitting. Learn about the various methods and medications to help you determine what will work best for you.

Quit with extra help. Explore our resources and tools to make quitting easier. 

Prescription medications

Prescription medications do not contain nicotine but reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms by affecting how nicotine interacts with your brain. Using quitting medications can increase your chances of quitting smoking successfully. It's even more effective when combined with counselling support.

Nicotine replacement therapy

Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) works by providing the body with nicotine to help reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings. NRT is one of the most effective tools to help people quit and can increase your chances of quit success. It's even more effective when combined with counselling.

Other methods

There are other quit methods and approaches that people use to quit, but some are more effective than others. Read more about which methods will increase your likelihood of quitting in the long run.
E-cigarettes
There has been a lot of debate over e-cigarettes in recent years. Here are some facts about their current legal status, effectiveness, and known health effects.

If you are a smoker, quitting smoking is the best thing you can do to improve your health. There is free support to help you quit, including QuitNow’s counselling services and medications covered by BC PharmaCare.

Completely replacing cigarette smoking with a vaping product will reduce your exposure to harmful chemicals. If you are not a current smoker, vaping can increase your exposure to some harmful substances that could negatively affect your health.

Effectiveness

Vaping is less harmful than smoking, and switching from tobacco cigarettes to vaping products will reduce a person's exposure to many toxic and cancer-causing chemicals.

Health Canada states that as a step towards quitting cigarettes, many smokers may go through a transition period when they use both cigarettes and vaping products. Studies have shown short-term general health improvements in those who have completely switched from smoking cigarettes to vaping products.

What are e-cigarettes?

Vaping devices are now available in many shapes and sizes. Some are small and look like USB drives or pens, while others are much larger. Most vaping devices consist of a:

  • battery
  • mouthpiece
  • heating element
  • chamber (a tank or reservoir to contain a liquid solution)

Most devices use electrical power from a battery to heat a liquid solution, which becomes vaporized. The vapour then condenses into an aerosol, which is inhaled by the user through the mouthpiece.

Are e-cigarettes legal for use in Canada?

Yes, effective May 2018, adults can now legally get vaping products with nicotine. However, vaping products that are produced, advertised, imported or sold in Canada are subject to a number of laws. The goals of these laws are:

  • to protect youth from nicotine addiction and incentive to use tobacco and vaping products
  • to allow adults (mainly adults who smoke) to access vaping products as a less harmful option than smoking

For more information on these laws, see the Health Canada website.

In British Columbia, the rules for both smoking and vaping are similar. The law bans smoking and vaping in all indoor public/work spaces and within 6 metres of most public/workplace doors, open windows and air intakes and schools. Some communities may have rules that make buffer zones larger than 6 metres. For more information, see the Ministry of Health webpage on tobacco and vapour free places.

Can e-cigarettes help me quit smoking?

Quitting smoking can be difficult, and there are other proven, safe, and effective methods for quitting smoking (see medications section above). However, vaping products and e-cigarettes deliver nicotine in a less harmful way than smoking, and may reduce health risks for smokers who are unwilling or unable to:

    • quit on their own 
    • quit using approved nicotine replacement therapies (such as gums, lozenges and patches) or medication
    • quit using counselling

    While evidence is still emerging, there is limited evidence that e-cigarette use is linked to improved rates of success when quitting.

    Are e-cigarettes safe?

    If you are not a smoker, vaping can increase your exposure to some harmful chemicals that could negatively affect your health. Vaping could also expose you to nicotine, which is addictive.

    There are also concerns about the appeal of vaping products among youth and their potential to encourage tobacco use. There is clear evidence that nicotine exposure during adolescence adversely affects cognitive function and development and using vaping products that contain nicotine could potentially lead to addiction.

    If you are a smoker however, vaping is a less harmful option than smoking.

    Health risks of vaping

    There are a number of health concerns relating to vaping, including the presence of nicotine, other harmful chemicals, exposure to second-hand vape, and device malfunctions.

    Vaping with nicotine: Nicotine is not known to cause cancer. It is approved for use in nicotine replacement therapies, such as the patch or nicotine gum. However, there are risks linked to nicotine. Nicotine is a highly addictive substance. Vaping could result in symptoms of nicotine dependence.

    Children and youth are especially susceptible to the negative effects of nicotine, including addiction. Nicotine is known to alter brain development and can affect memory and concentration. It may also predispose youth to addiction to nicotine and possibly other drugs.

    In some cases, vaping liquid containers have enough nicotine to be poisonous to young children. Children must be prevented from getting vaping liquid.

    Health risks of other chemicals in vaping: There are health risks linked to other chemicals found in vaping products. While the main liquids in vaping products are considered safe for use in many consumer products, the long-term safety of inhaling them is unknown and continues to be assessed.

    The heating of the liquid during vaping can cause new chemicals to be created. Some contaminants might also get into the vaping products and then into the vapour.

    Second-hand vapour: Bystanders can also be exposed to vapour that is exhaled by users. The health effects to non-users from exposure to second-hand vapour are still unknown. While the risks from vapour are expected to be much lower than tobacco smoke, Health Canada recommends that users be cautious around non-users and youth.

    Device malfunctions: Injuries from vaping product malfunctions, including explosions and fires, have occurred. For more information on product safety requirements, and how to protect yourself, read about vaping product, safety and regulation. 

    More information
    In British Columbia, the sale, display, promotion and use of e-cigarettes are regulated under the Tobacco and Vapour Products Control Act and Regulations.