Ontario smokers to get access to free nicotine gum, patches
The London Free Press (31.05.2007)
Ontario smokers will have free access to free nicotine gum and patches to help them quit, the province’s health promotion minister announced yesterday.
On the one year anniversary of Ontario’s smoke-free act, Jim Watson said free nicotine replacement therapy will be available from 64 health centres across the province, including 10 aboriginal health centres.
The program is part of an initiative to encourage Ontarians to quit smoking.
Watson dubbed last year’s introduction of tough legislation and enforcement the “stick approach,” referring to this gentler stage as the “carrot stick” approach.
Six months worth of free replacements will come with mandatory counselling, he added.
“If the one-year pilot project reaches a number of people and is effective, then we’d like to make it a permanent program,” Watson said in an interview, adding the project will cost the province just under $3 million for the year.
Michael Perley, director of the Ontario Coalition for Action on Tobacco, said the new initiative is the kind of assistance that has been needed for some time, but expressed surprise that a project such as this is still in the in the pilot stage.
Perley said such a program isn’t likely to be abused, since nicotine patches and gum are of little interest to those not seeking therapy.
He said he anticipated positive results from the combination of nicotine therapy and counselling.
“When all the research results are in and the success rates are determined, then we have a virtually clear road-map about how to do this on a province-wide basis,” Perley said. “That really remains the big question. When are we going to get to a point when we’re confident about what works?”
In terms of compliance, Watson said Ontario has been a North American leader in creating smoke-free workplaces and in preventing youths from picking up the habit.
Watson said 99.9 per cent of public places and workplaces in Ontario were smoke-free at the end of March.
The final phase of the smoking law will take effect by May 31, 2008, when stores will be banned from displaying tobacco products on their shelves.
Watson: Says free nicotine replacement therapy will be available from 64 health centres across Ontario