Docs want provincial cash to help low-income smokers quit

(Ernest Doroszuk/QMI Agency)

(Ernest Doroszuk/QMI Agency)

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:48 AM ET

Doctors in Newfoundland and Labrador say the provincial government should foot the bill for drugs and therapies to help poor people quit smoking.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association, of which all practising physicians in the province are members, wants the province to pay for medications and nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) — things like patches or gum — for low-income residents.

"When smokers use NRTs and cessation medications, they increase their odds of quitting by as much as threefold," NLMA president Dr. Tony Gabriel said in a press release. "Unfortunately, access to these therapies is not universal for everyone. Low income, lack of education and other socio-economic factors are all barriers to accessing tobacco cessation aids."

The NLMA estimates 20% of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians over age 15 are smokers — a rate that hasn't changed since 2003.

"If we want to reduce our smoking rate, lessen the economic burdens of tobacco use and prevent smoking-related illness in our province, then we must eliminate the barriers people face in accessing affordable cessation therapies," Gabriel said.

The Alliance for the Control of Tobacco supports the initiative.

"The Newfoundland and Labrador Alliance for the Control of Tobacco is anxious to see government offer cessation help to people who meet the criteria for coverage under the province's Prescription Drug Program," ACT executive director Kevin Coady said.

"ACT believes now more than ever is the time to focus on cessation. Every possible step must be taken to help those who use tobacco find a way to beat this addiction."


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