The P.E.I. division of the Canadian Cancer Society is calling on the province to increase support for Islanders trying to quit smoking. Provincial coverage for smoking cessation products such as the patch is among the lowest in the country, the society said.
P.E.I. currently covers a portion of the cost of some medications — up to $75 a year — with eligibility based on registration in an individual or group program offered through Health PEI's Addiction Services.
'People require more support in order to get a good start.' — Vicki Bryanton, Council for a Smoke-Free PEI
But that's not enough, the society said.
"When you look at nicotine replacement therapies, they can be $80 to $120 a month, and that can be a huge cost for somebody who's really just meeting their bills," said Lori Barker of the Canadian Cancer Society.
"You look at prescriptions like Champix and Zyban, and that price goes up significantly. So it can be a huge barrier."
Research has shown people are much more likely to be successful when they try to quit smoking if they're backed up by some form of nicotine replacement therapy, Barker added.
People need 'more support' nowadays
They aren't the only ones calling for an increase in the $75 ceiling.
"Today's standards in terms of how much cessation aid they might need, how much medication or how much nicotine replacement, has certainly changed over the years," said Vicki Bryanton with the Council for a Smoke-Free PEI.
"People require more support in order to get a good start."
The Cancer Society is asking the province to increase coverage so it lasts as long as it takes for a smoker to become a non-smoker.
"This is addiction that we're talking about, and it is very complex, and I think government needs to look at the role they can play and the responsibility they have in the health of our communities and the health of our citizens," said Barker.
"So just even from that quality of life perspective, they have a responsiblity."
They also offer some compelling financial reasons.
The province could provide complete coverage of cessation product for somewhere under $2 million a year, said the society.
They compare that to the $35 million the province takes in via tobacco taxes, and the $100 million the province spends on tobacco-related health care each year.
The Cancer Society is finalizing a written proposal to submit to the P.E.I. government as part of its annual pre-budget consultations, advising the government to extend coverage for quit-smoking aids.
The national percentage of smokers currently stands at 15 per cent, while P.E.I. is at 17 per cent.