The B.C. government is giving smokers an extra incentive to kick the habit by providing free nicotine gum, patches and prescription drugs starting Friday.

By providing affordable support, people who want to quit can prevent illness and alleviate the cost on the health care system, said Premier Christy Clark.

"By reducing the number of people who smoke, not only will we prevent or delay the onset of diseases like heart attacks and cancer but also avoiding the millions of dollars cost on our health care system," Clark said.

Nicotine patches and gum will be available to British Columbians under the Medical Services Plan at pharmacies or via mail after registering with HealthLink BC and receiving a reference number.

Prescription drugs such as Champix and Zyban will be covered by B.C. PharmaCare – although the level of coverage depends on each individual plan.

People signed up with the smoking cessation program can receive up to 12 consecutive weeks of prescription drugs or nicotine replacement therapy every year.

The estimated cost of the program is between $15 million to $25 million depending on the number of individuals who use the program.

According to the province, more than 6,000 British Columbians die from tobacco use and the health-care costs of smoking related illnesses totals more than $600-million annually.

Tobacco is one of the main contributing factors of heart attacks and strokes, according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

According to the foundation's website, within one year of quitting, a former smoker's chance of dying from a tobacco-related heart disease is cut in half.