The study titled “Incentives for smoking cessation”, was published by the Cochrane Library, and contained results from 33 trials in eight countries, including 10 trials focusing on pregnant women. The researchers analysed data from over 21,000 participants who were trying to quit smoking.

Smokers were 50% more likely to quit when receiving a financial reward than when they did not.

The results indicated that smokers were 50% more likely to quit when receiving a financial reward than when they did not. The value of the rewards ranged from £35 to £912 in the form of cash payments, gift vouchers or deposits paid by participants that were later refunded. Interestingly, the research indicated that the amount of the cash reward did not really have an impact on their chance of quitting, and small rewards were sufficient.

Lead study author Dr Caitlin Notley said that these findings indicate that offering financial rewards could save the NHS billions of pounds a year. “In comparison to the total amount that the NHS has to set aside in the UK for smoking-related diseases, the cost of providing incentives is incredibly small in comparison,” she said. An article on The Guardian, pointed out that smoking costs the UK economy about £13bn a year, including costs of £3bn to the NHS and social care.

“Incentives support people in the early stages of trying to quit smoking, which are the most difficult, and once people have made that health behaviour change and the incentives are removed, they’re more likely to stay abstinent from smoking in the longer term,” said Notley. On the other hand, she added, the financial incentives did not work for everyone, and therefore a range of options should be available for smokers, including e-cigarettes.

The results should be considered when designing stop-smoking programs

The chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, Dr Penny Woods, said that these results should be considered when designing smoking cessation programs. “Offering financial incentives to help people quit smoking has been dismissed in the past, so it’s fantastic to see strong evidence that these innovative schemes work. Local authorities should consider this new research when designing comprehensive stop smoking services, as it could help target those in our communities who struggle the most to give up cigarettes.”

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