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.
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.