A new study in the New England Journal of Medicine comparing different financial incentives to help people quit smoking found that smokers were three times more likely to quit when rewarded with money over those who didn’t receive cash.
Researchers randomly assigned CVS Caremark employees and their relatives and friends to one of four incentive programs. Two of the programs were for individuals, and two focused on groups of six participants. One of the individual programs and one of the group programs included rewards of approximately $800 for stopping smoking; the others entailed refundable deposits of $150 plus $650 in reward payments for participants that were successful.
The study found that reward-based programs were better accepted and impactful than deposit-based programs, leading to higher rates of abstinence from smoking. Participating in a group was found to be no more effective than individual programs.
Vitality Institute Executive Director Derek Yach commented on the study to a South African news outlet, The Times. He said it was realistic to use money to help smokers quit, especially when one compares the modest costs of the incentives to the huge financial costs of lung cancer and heart disease they prevent.
The Institute has commissioned its own smoking cessation study to guide development of a new enhanced program for Vitality clients. The program thus far has seen high participation levels and we look forward to sharing the results later this year.