Ontario Doctors Call on Province to Improve Access to Medication to Help Smokers Quit

    GST should be cut from cessation medicines and they should be covered
    under the Ontario Drug Benefit Plan

    TORONTO, Jan. 18 /CNW/ - In the lead up to National Non-Smoking Week, the
Ontario Medical Association (OMA) released a report today with new research
about quitting smoking and the need to improve access to cessation medications
to help people quit smoking. The OMA is calling on the provincial government
to include cessation medication, such as nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) in
the Ontario Drug Benefit (ODB) Plan and the federal government to cut the GST
on these products. The report also highlights the need for hospitals to
implement cessation programs to improve patient health during their stay.
    "Many smokers need help quitting, either with medical advice or access to
medicines that can improve their chances of success," said Dr. Janice Willett,
President of the OMA. "The health benefits associated with quitting are
tremendous and doctors want to help their patients be as healthy as they can."
    The OMA report, entitled Rethinking Stop Smoking Medications: Treatment
Myths and Medical Realities, debunks commonly held beliefs about tobacco and
smoking cessation medications and makes recommendations for both the use of
these products and their availability.

    Some examples of the misconceptions about nicotine and nicotine
replacement therapy:

    Myth: Nicotine is the harmful substance in cigarettes.
    The medical reality is that although nicotine is addictive, it is the
other chemicals present in tobacco smoke that cause the most harm.

    Myth: NRTs, such as nicotine gum or the patch, are hazardous for smokers.
    The medical reality is that NRT is far safer than smoking. There is
little or no addictive potential and the dangerous toxins in cigarette smoke
are avoided.

    Myth: Smokers under the age of 18 should not be given cessation
    The medical reality is that the nicotine patch and gum are much safer
than smoking for this age group and should be considered for all smokers,
including those under 18.

    The report also debunks the myth that it is not cost effective for
insurance plans to cover stop-smoking medications, and recommends that such
medications should be covered under both private and public health insurance
plans. The report specifically identifies the ODB Plan, which covers Ontarians
on social assistance, who are the least able to afford the weekly cost of
these medications, but would greatly benefit from their availability.
    In a previous report, Investing in Tobacco Control: Good Health Policy,
Good Fiscal Policy the OMA revealed that provincial health-care spending on
disease directly caused by tobacco use exceeds $1 billion. Because of both the
health and economic benefits to quitting smoking, Ontario doctors continue to
advocate for policy changes that reduce tobacco use and exposure to
second-hand smoke and are eager to help patients break the habit.
    "Through clinical experience, we have found even better ways to use
stop-smoking medications," said Dr. Ted Boadway, OMA Health Policy Advisor.
"We now need to focus on making these resources easily accessible to our
patients who smoke, and offer them new hope for quitting."

For further information:

For further information: For a copy of the report or for more
information please visit www.oma.org or contact OMA Media Relations at (416)
340-2862 or toll-free at 1-800-268-7215 ext. 2862.

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Ontario Medical Association

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