Would you quit smoking if you got paid for it?
Going cold turkey! Kicking the habit! We all know that quitting smoking can be one of the hardest things to do, but would you think twice about lighting up your next cigarette if you knew you could get paid not to.
According to research from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UT Health), offering small financial incentives doubles smoking cessation rates among socioeconomically disadvantaged smokers.
Researchers randomly enrolled 146 patients from the tobacco cessation clinic in Dallas to the study. Participants were either assigned to a usual clinic care or an intervention group. The usual clinic care included an educational orientation session, weekly support group meetings, physician visits and pharmacological treatments.
The intervention group included everything that the usual care provided, except patients received a small financial incentive when they passed the biochemically-verified smoking device.
Participants had the opportunity of earning $20 in gift cards for abstinence on the quit date and they receive $5 each week for continuing abstinence (up to $40). In total if participants were successful, they had the opportunity of earning up to $150 in gift cards over the course of four weeks.
Those participating in the group were primarily African American or Caucasian and more females than males. Also, notable in the study, most participants were uninsured and had an annual income of less than $12,000.
“We found that women assigned to the financial incentives intervention had the highest cessation rates, which was surprising because women often have lower cessation rates than men participating in treatment,” said Darla Kendzor, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Division of Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences at the UTHealth School of Public Health Dallas Regional Campus, in a statement.
Some physicians think the incentive is a good idea.
“Research has consistently shown that new habits take about 66 days to acquire, so a focused incentive program where patients are encouraged to stop smoking makes sense intuitively and scientifically,” says Dr. Tony Hampton, family medicine physician with Advocate Medical Group in Chicago.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recognizes that health care providers play a crucial role in starting the conversation with their patients about quitting smoking.
“Many of my colleagues are at times frustrated because they feel they don’t have the tools to help their patients stop smoking and would welcome new innovative approaches to helping patient stop a habit which is the leading cause of preventive death,” Dr. Hampton says. “I also feel that incentive programs that work should be the responsibility on both the health care organizations delivering care as well as the insurers patients use to help pay for that care.”
For more information, call the American Cancer Society at 1.800.227.2345 or visit cancer.org. Search by zip code in the “In My Community” section for other local quitting resources.
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