From the Journals

Hefty rewards pay off in smoking-cessation study


Key clinical point: Smokers are more likely to sustain cessation if they receive incentives worth $600.

Major finding: Cessation rates for 6 months past target quit date reached as high as 2.9% in smokers who had the opportunity to gain rewards, while they didn’t top 1% in those who received free cessation aids or free e-cigarettes.

Study details: A randomized, prospective study of 6,006 smokers (employees of 54 companies and spouses) who were assigned to usual care or one of four intervention groups.

Disclosures: The study received grant support from the Vitality Institute. Most of the study authors reported no relevant disclosures. One reported serving on the scientific advisory board of VAL Health, and another reported various grants and personal fees.

Source: Halpern SD et al. N Engl J Med. 2018 May 23. doi: 10.1056/NEJMsa1715757.



A new study finds it pays to pay people to stop lighting up: Smokers were more likely to quit if they had an opportunity to gain rewards worth $600 than if they simply received free cessation aids or free e-cigarettes.

The wide majority of the more than 6,000 smokers in the randomized study didn’t quit despite offers of various incentives. All the same, “programs that offered financial incentives tripled the rates of smoking cessation, reduced employers’ costs per successful quit, as compared with programs that offered cessation aids alone, and yielded total costs that compared favorably with the costs of employing smokers,” the study authors wrote.

A snuffed out cigarette milosluz/
The study, led by Scott D. Halpern, MD, PhD, of the University of Pennsylvania, was published online May 23 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The researchers reached out to employees and spouses at 54 companies that use wellness programs provided by the Vitality Institute, which supports research into health promotion. The institute provided grant support for the study.

Just over 6,000 employees and spouses who smoked were assigned to five groups. One group received usual care. The others received interventions: free smoking-cessation aids (nicotine replacement therapy, bupropion, or varenicline); free e-cigarettes; up to $600 worth of an unidentified “reward incentive” plus free cessation aids; and up to $600 via a redeemable deposit, plus free cessation aids.

Participants could only get the entire reward incentive or the full $600 redeemable deposit if they showed signs of sustained smoking cessation via blood or urine test at 1, 3, and 6 months.

The median age in the groups ranged from 43 to 45 years, and most were not college graduates. Just over half were women, and roughly 90% said they wanted to quit smoking.

Next Article: