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The BC Ministry of Health launched a program in 2011, offering free tobacco cessation aids to BC residents with a Medical Services Plan card/number and those eligible for Fair Pharmacare.

​Did you know that lung cancer kills more people each year than AIDS, liver cancer, or ovarian cancer? And that lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer death in North America? The evidence is also clear that smokeless tobacco products and second-hand smoke have dangerous health effects. The good news is that quitting smoking decreases not only your risk of cancer but also of heart attack, stroke, and coronary heart disease.

You can double your chances of quitting by following a cessation program. If you or someone you know needs help to quit smoking, go to If you are a smoker facing upcoming surgery, you can reduce your risk of surgical complications by stopping eight weeks before surgery. For further information, please visit

Tobacco cessation aids such as Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) and stop-smoking medication help with withdrawal symptoms when you stop smoking, and increase your chances of quitting. You can go to your local pharmacy to register for the BC Smoking Cessation Program, for access to free NRT, or to get information on subsidized medication. Further details can be found on the program's webpage.

"There is NO risk-free level of secondhand smoke."
US Surgeon General

While a significant number of cancer patients continue to use tobacco products, they may not know of the benefits of quitting, with regard to their cancer treatment. The influence of smoking on cancer treatment is not to be taken lightly. The following was noted in the 2014 US Surgeon General's report on smoking:


"Risk of dying could be lowered by 30-40% by quitting smoking at the time of diagnosis. For some cancer diagnoses, the benefit of smoking cessation may be equal to, or even exceed, the value of state-of-the-art cancer therapies..." (The Health Consequences of Smoking – 50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General (2014), p. 291).


There is substantial evidence showing that smoking around time of diagnosis is associated with poor outcomes in cancer patients. Are you using tobacco?

  • Chemotherapy drugs and radiation treatment may not be as effective
  • Your hospital stay may be longer
  • If you have surgery, you are at higher risk of complications, and you may take more time to heal
  • Free Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) or stop-smoking medication helps with withdrawal symptoms and increases your chance of success

Quitting smoking can:

  • Improve outcomes of surgery, radiation and systemic therapy
  • Reduce risk of reoccurrence and second primary cancers
  • Provide general health benefits such as improved oxygen transport and circulation, and heightened immune response

 For support and services, call 1-877-455-2233 and ask to speak to a counsellor from QuitNow. At your local pharmacy, you can register for the BC Smoking Cessation Program, where you can access free NRT, or get information on subsidized medication.


The United States Surgeon General has stated that: "There is NO risk-free level of secondhand smoke exposure, with even brief exposure adversely affecting the cardiovascular and respiratory system."

The full Surgeon General's report is available online at


Quitting for Eight Weeks Before Surgery Reduces All Your Risks of Complications

If you smoke:

  • it takes longer for your wounds to heal;
  • your surgical wounds are more likely to get infected;
  • you have a higher chance of lung and chest infection after surgery; and
  • you will probably need to stay in hospital longer.

Stopping until after your surgery could be the first step to quitting for life!

How to Stop

  • Talk to a health care professional - such as a doctor, pharmacist, or counsellor - about proven ways to help you quit.
  • Try a quitting aid, such as Nicotine Replacement Therapy or stop-smoking medication. Call 811 to register for the BC Smoking Cessation Program, to access free NRT or get information on subsidized stop smoking medication.
  • Nicotine gum is also helpful. Make sure you chew and then hold it against the inside of your cheek.
  • Use the internet and free telephone-based resources to get help and support. In British Columbia, call 811 and ask for QuitNow, visit, or use QuitNow's text service: text "Join" to 654321.

For more information about the BC Cancer Agency Prevention Program's Stop Smoking Before Surgery program, please visit or contact a Prevention Educational Leader.

Fact sheet about Stop Smoking Before Surgery program

As a health authority, it is essential that the Provincial Health Services Authority take a leading role in protecting anyone who visits our sites from the harmful effects of second-hand smoke. Tobacco-related illnesses are the leading cause of preventable death in B.C., resulting in about 6,000 deaths each year, including over 100 non-smokers.


Thousands more British Columbians become sick from either tobacco use or second-hand smoke. Second-hand smoke causes the same diseases as smoking, including heart and lung disease, and cancers of the lung, bladder, blood, kidney and nasal passages.


That’s why, as of March 1, 2008, the buildings and grounds of all Provincial Health Services Authority owned properties became smoke-free, including many of our agencies.


For many of our sites, this means that staff, patients, and visitors who wish to smoke will need to go outside our property boundaries to do so.


Some people who smoke may prefer to refrain from smoking while visiting our sites. If you’re one of them, we encourage you to take advantage of the many resources that exist for people who wish to reduce or quit smoking.

A Resource to Help You Quit

You're one click away from quitting! offers phone, textand internet-based quit smoking services thatare available free-of-charge to all B.C. residents. is operated by the BC Lung Association on behalf of the Ministry of Health.

QuitNow by phone: 1-877-455-2233 (toll-free)

QuitNow by phone is a confidential tobacco cessation helpline available free-of-charge to residents of British Columbia. The service is open seven days a week 24 hours a day so that callers can seek help when they need it most. Multilingual service is available.

The QuitNow fax referral form is used to refer BC smokers for free cessation services.

For more information about quitnow, visit

For health-care professionals, the Prevention Programs offers a tobacco cessation program named the Clinical Tobacco Intervention Program. There is also a module for those who do not work in health-care, but who would like to learn about assisting others with their quit attempts.

For further information, please visit


The Tobacco Education and Action Module (TEAM) was developed by the Prevention Programs for use by non healthcare front-line workers who wish to assist tobacco users with cessation. Perhaps you are a teacher, counsellor or social worker who often comes into contact with smokers or users of chew tobacco. You may know that the way information is delivered to a tobacco user has a large impact on whether they choose to accept the information or simply tune it out. Would you like to assist them in their efforts to quit tobacco use? The TEAM module will teach you the skills and techniques to help get the quitting message across.

TEAM consists of a main body of information about tobacco use, followed by sections relating specifically to young people and to Aboriginal people. The module also contains plenty of easily-understood 'fast facts' about tobacco use and several Resource Guides to further inform about tobacco, research, use and cessation.

For further information about TEAM, please visit

Fact sheet about TEAM

In May 2011, the BC government announced that it would make nicotine replacement products freely available to all British Columbia smokers. For more information, please visit the Ministry of Health's website.

Health Canada's Quit Smoking site offers tobacco facts, tools, and quitting guides. Quit4Life is a four-step interactive resource for youths to help quit smoking.

The Health Impact of Smoking & Obesity and What to Do About It, is a publication by Hans Kruger, Dan Williams, Barbara Kaminsky & David McLean. To order, please visit the University of Toronto Press.

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