Methods and medications

Find the options that best suit you.

Accessing prescription medications and nicotine replacement therapy in BC

You can get coverage for up to 12 weeks for one of the following two options:
prescription medications or Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT).

More about your coverage

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.
Brand Name
Name
Advantage
PharmaCare BC Coverage
Champix®
Varenicline
Blocks effects of nicotine
Covered by PharmaCare BC
Zyban®
Bupropion
Makes smoking less pleasurable
Covered by PharmaCare BC

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.
Name
Release Type
Advantage
PharmaCare BC Coverage
Nicotine gum
Short-acting
Good for occasional smokers
Covered by PharmaCare BC
Nicotine lozenges
Short-acting
Different strengths available
Covered by PharmaCare BC
Nicotine patch
Long-acting
Good for heavy smokers
Covered by PharmaCare BC
Nicotine inhaler
Short-acting
Choose how often to use it
Covered by PharmaCare BC
Nicotine mouth spray
Short-acting
Choose how often to use it
Not covered by PharmaCare BC

Combination Nicotine Replacement Therapy

What is combination NRT?

Combination NRT is using two forms of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) to increase your chance of successfully quitting, as follows:

  • Long-acting NRT (nicotine patch) to provide steady levels of nicotine.

  • Short-acting NRT (gum, lozenge, inhaler or spray) to help reduce breakthrough cravings or deal with challenging situations. 

Effectiveness

  • Combining a long-acting nicotine patch with a short-acting NRT like nicotine gum, when used as directed, can increase quit rates compared to using a single NRT product. 

Who are good candidates for combination NRT?

Combination NRT may be appropriate for people who:

  • Have used NRT in previous quit attempts but relapsed while using it.
  • Feel they need something more than a patch or other single form of NRT to deal with intense cravings to smoke.

Talk to your doctor prior to using any kind of combination therapy, including combining NRTs, or combining prescription smoking cessation therapy with NRTs. Be sure to review how to use each NRT product properly, including the warnings and precautions for each product.

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.
Name
Advantage
PharmaCare BC Coverage
Cytisine
Reduces pleasure to nicotine
Not covered by PharmaCare BC
E-cigarettes / Vaping
Reduces exposure to harmful chemicals
Not covered by PharmaCare BC
More detailsHide details

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 PharmaCare BC Smoking Cessation Program.

Completely replacing cigarette smoking with a vaping product like E-Cigarettes 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 to 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 to smoking cigarettes to vaping products.

What are e-cigarettes?

E-cigarettes are 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 to 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 to 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 to 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 to exposure to second-hand vapour are still unknown. While the risks to 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 to 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.

    Gradual reduction
    Keep you engaged in a positive behavior change
    Not applicable by PharmaCare BC
    Alternative therapies
    Variety of options available
    Not applicable by PharmaCare BC
    Cold turkey
    Not applicable
    Not applicable by PharmaCare BC

    Questions about symptoms or your health?

    Make sure to talk to your healthcare provider to understand how different medications will interact and about your personal health.