Incentives to Quit Smoking – Are they Effective?

by Dr Antonio Howell, MD

in quit smoking

Dr. Howell

5 Things Research Say about Quit Smoking Incentives

Various governments from all parts of the world are adopting incentive programs nowadays to promote smoking cessation among the public. Just recently, South Auckland has created a voucher scheme for baby products, groceries, cinema tickets and phone credits as an incentive for pregnant women if they will quit smoking. While there have been questions about the effectiveness of this approach, proponents of the incentive program insist that overseas trials have shown that incentives can actually carrot-on-a-stick-incentiveThere have been several studies that investigated the effectiveness of incentives for smokers. Here were some of the major findings:

1) Incentives work in the short-term. In the newly updated Cochrane Review, researchers examined the effectiveness of quit smoking incentives. They found that incentives can help people quit smoking but the effects may not help for long. According to the researchers, complex behavior change needs sustained efforts and the adoption of multiple strategies. In one study which examined the effects of incentives in weight loss, it was found that larger rewards seemed more effective but decline when the incentives were withdrawn.

2)  It pushes people into a cessation attempt. While most smokers regret smoking in the first place and want to stop, only a few take action to quit. Based on the Cochrane Review, various studies have shown that incentive programs seemed to draw people into a cessation attempt. That is, it strengthens their motivation to ditch the habit.

3) Financial incentives seemed to be the most effective intervention. The 2009 Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews suggest that incentive programs increase smoking abstinence by up to three-fold among pregnant women.

4) Incentive programs do work if they are well designed and adequately funded. A 2009 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, which involved 878 General Electric workers at 85 different facilities across the US, revealed that people were three times more likely to stay off cigarettes for at least six months if they were rewarded with up to $750. This would also benefit insurance companies and employers because having one worker quit smoking is worth $3,400 in

DID YOU KNOW?

While most smokers regret smoking in the first place and want to stop, only a few take action to quit. Incentive programs seemed to draw people into a cessation attempt. That is, it strengthens their motivation to ditch the habit.

increased productivity and reduced illness, according to the researchers.

5) Giving incentives to quit prompt smokers to use evidence-based treatments. Aside from prompting smokers to decide to quit, incentives also increase their likelihood to seek treatment. Because of the promise of reward, many smokers who are encouraged to stop smoking exert efforts studying various types of smoking cessation that can help them reach their quit smoking goals.

Smoking is both a personal and public health concern. Every day, thousands of people die due to smoking-related illnesses. Helping tobacco users get rid of the habit is a great way to improve their health and that of other people. While more studies are needed to confirm the benefits of incentives in smoking cessation, there’s no doubt that it can contribute to one’s success.


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