November 24, 2021
Read recommendations to improve the funding and delivery of smoking cessation medications for people with cancer
Evidence-based smoking cessation support is a critical component of first-line cancer treatment and high-quality cancer care. Quitting smoking improves people’s survival and quality of life and reduces costs to the healthcare system. However, gaps in financial coverage and access to smoking cessation medications across Canada have created barriers for many people with cancer who want to quit. These barriers are more acute for people who experience health inequities, many of whom require more support to quit smoking.
Recommendations to improve access to medications
Federal, provincial and territorial governments and agencies responsible for cancer care can improve the funding and delivery of smoking cessation medications for people with cancer by implementing the following recommendations:
Fund a combination of smoking cessation medications for all people with cancer.
Provincial and territorial governments should fund all types of smoking cessation medications for all people with cancer so they can receive them for free at least 12 weeks a year, and ideally longer. This would provide people with the flexibility to choose the medication or combination of medications that work for them and enable people to use these medications for as long as they need to prevent a relapse.
Provide free smoking cessation medications directly to people with cancer at the point of care.
The use of smoking cessation medications helps reduce people’s addiction to nicotine and can more than double quit rates. Offering medications at the point of care increases their use and may make it easier for people with cancer to quit. Therefore, provincial, territorial and federal programs, including those that already fund free smoking cessation medications for the general population, should increase access to medications by providing them free at the point of care in cancer care settings or mailing them directly to a person’s home.
Commit to sustainable funding for programs that currently use short-term funding to provide point-of-care smoking cessation medications for people with cancer.
Provinces that currently provide free smoking cessation medications at the point of care using short-term funding should commit to sustainable, long-term funding to deliver these services.
Facilitate access to smoking cessation medications for First Nations, Inuit and Métis with cancer.
Federal, provincial and territorial governments and agencies responsible for cancer care should make a concerted effort to facilitate access to smoking cessation medications for First Nations, Inuit and Métis with cancer by providing culturally appropriate care, improving coordination across providers and programs and making smoking cessation medications more readily available in remote communities.