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Ontario Government to Fund Smoking Cessation Medication

Ontario Lung Association congratulates the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care on a significant step towards a smoke-free province


Toronto, Ontario – July 27, 2020The Ontario Lung Association congratulates the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care for taking a much-needed step forward to help smokers who want to quit by funding smoking cessation medications in the province, effective August 4.  In its recent report, Your Lungs, Your Life, the Ontario Lung Association cites additional support for smoking cessation, including greater access to prescription medications along with behavioural counselling, as an effective approach that will help reduce smoking rates in Ontario, while also reducing healthcare costs.

“With two million smokers in the province, at least half of whom want to quit, the announcement by Health Minister Deb Matthews to fund smoking cessation medications is great news and will help those who want to quit succeed,” said George Habib, president and CEO, Ontario Lung Association.


Evidence shows that medications and behavioural counselling together can double or triple the chances of success in quitting smoking.  The Ontario Lung Association’s recent report predicts that if these were made available to all those who want to quit, we can reduce tobacco-related illnesses, such as lung cancer and COPD, and save the Ontario healthcare system almost $3 billion in 10 years and up to $36 billion in 30 years.


The Lung Association has also reported that if prescription or over-the-counter medications were available free-of-charge, 79 per cent of smokers would be more likely to use at least one cessation medication in their quit attempt.[1]  This announcement will allow thousands of smokers in Ontario to have these vital supports reimbursed by the Ontario Public Drug Plan (OPDP), removing another barrier to success.


“Our research report shows the healthcare costs associated with tobacco use are skyrocketing out of control,” said Habib.  “The most effective intervention is to recognize smoking as the addiction it is, and treat it accordingly in order to help people quit for good.  This will save billions of dollars not to mention reduce lung disease and save countless lives here in Ontario.”

For someone addicted to nicotine, quitting smoking is extremely difficult.  It can take multiple attempts before success, and only between five and 10 per cent manage to quit cold turkey.[2]  Withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, depressed mood, poor concentration, difficulty sleeping and headaches can be very uncomfortable. Discussing coping strategies for withdrawal symptoms, urges and triggers with a healthcare professional may make a quit attempt more successful. [3]

The need for a Lung Health Action Plan

The Ontario Lung Association is asking the Government of Ontario to make lung health a provincial priority and commit to the development of a Lung Health Action Plan.  A comprehensive smoking prevention and cessation system is an important part of a plan to improve lung health and prevent respiratory disease among Ontarians.  To show your support for a Lung Health Action Plan, sign the pledge.  Downloadable copies of Your Lungs, Your Life are available at; hard copies can be ordered through our Helpline at 1-888-344-LUNG (5864).


About the Ontario Lung Association

The Lung Association is a registered charity that provides information, education and funding for research to improve lung health. We focus on the prevention and control of asthma, chronic lung disease, tobacco control as well as healthy air and the effects of pollution on lung health.  For information on lung health, call our Helpline at 1-888-344-LUNG (5864), which is staffed by certified respiratory educators or visit You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook.


For more information contact:

Sherry Zarins

Project Manager

Ontario Lung Association

416-864-9911, ext. 267



[1] Leger Marketing. Abolish the Word Habit Smokers Study. Conducted May 2011.

[2] Hughes, J.  New Treatments for Smoking Cessation.  CA Cancer J Clin.  200; 50: 143-151.

[3] Optimal Therapy Initiative (University of Toronto). Smoking cessation guidelines: How to treat your patient's tobacco addiction. 2000.

Cancer incidence is rising in young women aged 20-39.
(Canadian Cancer Society, Statistics Canada, Provincial/Territorial Cancer Registries, Public Health Agency of Canada, 2009)
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