Help low-income smokers quit: doctors

The Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association is recommending the province offer low-income smokers free prescription and over-the-counter drugs to help them quit.

Products like nicotine gum and the patch can help ease people off tobacco, but can cost up to $370 for a 12-week supply.

"We need to have some targeted investment to try and go after the hardliners — those that have been smoking for years, that are having a difficult time quitting and they need that support because their economic status is poor," said Dr. Tony Gabriel, president of the medical association.

For the doctors, it's simple math — pay to help people stop smoking today and save millions in the health care budget tomorrow.

"We can't argue with that science and no one would want to argue with that science," said Health Minister Susan Sullivan.

"It certainly makes sense. What we have to look at is what we can afford today. However, having said that, I have not ruled that out because of cost at this point."

Getting patients to follow the association's advice is not easy.

"When you see people who have just had their leg amputated because of vacular disease still smoking, it shows what an addiction this is and we need to help these people," Gabriel said.

"Our health-care system, that's what it's there for — to help people who need help."

The government says it will look at what other provinces do before making a decision.

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