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article imageOntario government to help addicts and alcoholics quit smoking

By Arthur Weinreb     Jan 19, 2012 in Health
Toronto - But smokers who cannot afford nicotine patches or gum and who are not undergoing treatment for drug addiction or alcoholism are out of luck.
Yesteday, Deb Matthews, Ontario's Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, announced 23,000 Ontarians will receive help to stop smoking. The province will work in conjunction with The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) to help those already undergoing treatment for drug dependency or alcoholism to cure their addiction to tobacco.
The announcement was timed to be made on "Weedless Wednesday."
Matthews said, We've made tremendous strides in helping Ontarians kick the habit but too many people are still dying from preventable diseases caused by smoking. People dealing with addiction are more likely to smoke which is why it makes sense to extend the combination of nicotine replacement therapy and counselling to those already receiving addiction services - a move that will help save lives and keep Ontario healthy.
CBC reports there are currently about 60,000 addicts undergoing treatment in the province and about 38% of them are smokers. That is roughly double the percentage of Ontarians that smoke.
The theory is that it is relatively easy to treat smokers who are already receiving help for other addictions. The three year program is expected to cost taxpayers $4.5 million.
Michael Devillaer, the manager of provincial services for CAMH, said, When we think of addictions, most people think of crystal meth or alcohol. While they get the most attention, tobacco does far more damage resulting in drug-related deaths, hospital days or drug-related costs to the economy.
Devillaer noted that after a survey of Hamilton area addiction centres, only about 25% of them offered patients help to quit smoking while they were undergoing treatment for other addictions.
As pointed out by the Toronto Star, 1.6 million Ontario smokers who are not receiving treatment for other addictions are "on their own." Michael Perley, of the Ontario Campaign for Action on Tobacco, said, The issue is more we've been doing smoking cessation one piece at a time... and we have some very good pieces. What we don't have is a system where every Ontarian has free access 24-7.
Matthews countered this argument by pointing out the smoking cessation drugs, Champix and Zyban, have recently been added to the Ontario Drug Benefit (ODB) program.
According to provincial figures, smoking kills 13,000 Ontarians every year and smoking costs Ontario $2 billion annually.
More about ontario ministry of health, nicotine gum, Nicotine patch, deb matthews, centre for addiction and mental health
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