Australia's three million smokers will have more reason to quit, after the federal government today committed to funding nicotine patches on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).
Quit Executive Director Fiona Sharkie said the listing would help bring down smoking rates in Australia - especially among lower income groups.
"This is fantastic news for those smokers and quitters who have been unable to afford nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). While the tobacco tax increase in April acted as a motivator to quit, this subsidy offers smokers who couldn't otherwise afford it vital support to quit."
"These two policies together will really help smokers butt out for good and we commend the government for recognising that."
"The subsidy is especially important for people from low-income groups who have smoking rates more than twice that of the general population, but little access to NRT because of its cost," Ms Sharkie said.
Research suggests subsidised NRT can increase the number of smokers using the products to help them quit, and the amount who have a successful quit attempt.
Furthermore, Cancer Council Victoria research shows that six out of ten smokers support a tobacco tax increase, if some of the money raised goes towards helping them quit.
At the moment, the cost of a four-week course of nicotine patches is between $100 and $140 - with even the smallest available pack of patches costing two to three times as much as a pack of cigarettes.
When subsidised, smokers who obtain a doctor's prescription for patches will receive a four-week course for approximately $33.30 or $5.40 if they hold a concession card.
The subsidised patches will be available to smokers from February 2011.
- The United Kingdom, United States and New Zealand already subsidise NRT.
- Subsidised nicotine patches have been available to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people under the PBS since 2009.
- Half of all long-term smokers will die because of their smoking
- 15,000 Australians die from smoking every year
- Smokers wanting to quit can get more information at www.quit.org.au and by calling the Quitline on 13 QUIT (7848).