Nova Scotia

New program helps Nova Scotians quit smoking with free nicotine replacement therapy

A new program that provides free nicotine replacement therapies to people trying to quit smoking cigarettes is now available in Nova Scotia for the first time.

More than 200 Nova Scotians have registered for the program, called Quit NS, since Tuesday

Quit NS is based on a program that was developed by the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health in Toronto. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

A new program that provides free nicotine replacement therapies to people trying to quit smoking cigarettes is now available in Nova Scotia for the first time.

The Lung Association of Nova Scotia launched the new program, called Quit NS, on Tuesday. 

The program aims to help participants quit smoking over a four-week period by providing them with free nicotine replacement therapies, such as gums and lozenges, that are sent directly to them in the mail.

"The focus is to get nicotine replacement therapy into the hands of people that are looking to try and quit," said Robert MacDonald, the president and CEO of the Lung Association of Nova Scotia.

"January is always a good month — a fresh start — and now is the time to try and help those that are really looking to find some answers to quit smoking."

Robert MacDonald is the president and CEO of the Lung Association of Nova Scotia. He says the program has already received positive feedback from people in the medical field. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

Quit NS is based on a program that was developed by the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health in Toronto, which has partnered with the Lung Association to bring it to Nova Scotia.

MacDonald said 400 nicotine replacement therapy kits are available to Nova Scotians over 18. They must have a mailing address, currently smoke cigarettes and be willing to attempt to quit within 30 days of program enrolment.

People can register online or by calling the Lung Association of Nova Scotia. 

When registering, participants will answer a few questions which will be screened by staff at the centre to determine if they are eligible, how addicted they are to nicotine and what dosage they will require.

The kits will then be mailed directly to the participant.

A pack of tobacco cigarettes is seen next to a package of nicotine lozenges. Quit NS aims to help participants quit smoking using free nicotine replacement therapies, such as gums and lozenges. (Cassidy Chisholm/CBC)

MacDonald said the program has already received a positive reception from Nova Scotians and people within the medical field.

That includes Dr. Stephanie Snow, a medical oncologist at the QEII Health Sciences Centre in Halifax, who is also the president of Lung Cancer Canada.

"It's really a major step forward, and I think it's really recognizing the fact that there's [multiple facets] to helping somebody be successful with smoking cessation," Snow said. 

Snow said nicotine replacement therapies will help break the association between nicotine and the cigarettes that have them inhaling harmful tobacco smoke.

"I tell my patients, 'I don't care if you have to chew nicotine gum or keep a patch on for the rest of your life, it's definitely safer than using tobacco,'" she said.

"The key thing for them to remember, it's not their fault and it's a really, really tough battle ... but we will help them through every step of the way."

MacDonald said it will often take many attempts for people to quit smoking, but they should never give up and it's never too late to quit.

"We're very well aware that smoking is an addiction," he said. "A lot of times you'll hear somebody say it's a habit — it's not a habit, it's an addiction — and we want to help people overcome those addictions."

He said more than 200 Nova Scotians have registered for the program since Tuesday. 

"That shows the need is there and that people do want to quit smoking and we're very, very excited about that initial response," he said.

Stephanie Snow, a medical oncologist at the QEII, says nicotine replacement therapies will help break the association between nicotine and the cigarettes that have them inhaling harmful tobacco smoke. (CBC)

MacDonald said this new program is just a one-time offering for now, but it will be reviewed for a possible extension if it is successful.

He's hopeful the program will become a staple in Nova Scotia Health's smoking cessation toolkit.

"We think that this could potentially be something that could create a uniform approach to cessation in Nova Scotia and I think that's important whether you're a smoker in Cape Breton or in Yarmouth or Bridgewater," he said.

"It's all similar when it comes to being able to access — it should be the same to be able to access resources to help you quit and that's where we want to go with this."

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