It’s tough to quit

Any smoker past or present knows the agony of nicotine withdrawal. There is now a lot of help available for quitters, and especially effective are the nicotine replacement “therapies” offered in the form of gum or the patch. So what’s the problem? In Ontario, it’s easier to buy a pack of butts (laden with not only nicotine but 4,000 other chemicals) than it is to pick up a box of patches.

A coalition of respiratory and anti-tobacco groups has decided that enough is enough, and that they’d rather fight than switch. At a news conference last week, The Lung Association said the government is “out of step” with both other provinces, and the current thinking on how to help smokers quit.

Other provincial governments across the country have supported making nicotine patches and gum available in the self-selection area of pharmacies. This follows the recommendation of Canada’s National Drug Scheduling Advisory Committee, which made the decision based on a review of the products’ effectiveness and safety record.

But in Ontario, a smoker still requires a doctor’s prescription to buy the patch and some strengths of the gum, and must first see a pharmacist for lower strengths of thgum. As any nicotine addict knows, it’s tough enough to quit at the best of times. Why make it harder than it has to be? In response, the provincial government has promised to look into the issue.