There are an estimated 550

There are an estimated 550

Quit aids gaining popularity

More than 63,000 taking advantage of B.C.'s quit smoking program, supplying free gum or patches

B.C.’s program to supply free quit-smoking aids is proving popular, with more than 63,000 smokers taking advantage since it launched last September.

The program offers up to 12 weeks worth of nicotine patches or gum, available once per calendar year to people with active Medical Services Plan coverage.

Those who used the program in 2011 are eligible again for 2012, and 4,500 people signed up in the first two weeks of the new year.

Two prescription drugs, Champix and Zyban, are also available with costs for 12 weeks covered for some people under the Pharmacare plan.

People can register by calling HealthLink BC at 8-1-1.

B.C. has the lowest smoking rate in Canada, but the health ministry estimates there are still 550,000 smokers in the province. More than 6,000 B.C. residents die each year from smoking-related illness, costing an estimated $605 million in direct health care costs.

With health care costs taking up more than 40 per cent of the B.C. budget and cost pressures increasing as the baby boom generation retires, the province is launching another push to reduce salt consumption.

A new “sodium sense” tool has been added to the health ministry’s website at www.healthyfamiliesbc.ca so people can calculate salt intake and find low-sodium menu alternatives.

Sodium is a necessary part of the diet, but the ministry estimates that B.C. residents on average consume twice as much as they need. Excess sodium is linked to high blood pressure.