Quiting smoking and receiving a financial reward is emerging as a new and successful smoking cessation strategy for health care professionals and researchers. In a study published in BMJ on January 27, a higher percentage of pregnant women successfully quit smoking when offered a financial incentive.
Lead researcher Professor David Tappin, of Glasgow University in Scotland, provided this comment in their publication.
“If financial incentives are effective and cost effective they may well have the future potential to sit with vaccines as an important preventive healthcare intervention strategy.”
Professor Tappin and his colleagues recruited close to 600 pregnant women living in the United Kingdom to participate in their innovative study. They separated the women into two groups.
One group received up to $1,200 worth of shopping vouchers as an incentive to follow certain steps to quit smoking. The other group, the control group, received counseling on how to quit smoking. In addition, free nicotine therapy became part of the smoking cessation incentive for the pregnant women in the control group.
Just about 25 percent of the women that accepted the Love2Shop shopping vouchers as an incentive to quit smoking actually quit. On the other hand, only nine percent of the women in the control group were successful in their attempt to quit smoking.
The American Pregnancy Association reports that every year in the United States, more than 1,000 babies die because their mothers smoked during pregnancy. Moreover, each year in the United Kingdom, more than 5,000 babies die in the womb of pregnant women who smoke cigarettes.
The researchers of recent study published their reasoning on how to quit smoking successfully using financial incentives, in light of more traditional smoking cessation methods.
“In the developed world there is now a clear socioeconomic gradient in smoking, with tobacco use concentrated among the poorest in society. Receipt of financial incentives can contribute to needed household income in advance of the arrival of a baby in low income households.”
Some may argue that using money as an incentive to achieve success is a form of bribery. In fact, the Christian Science Monitor suggests this study is a bribe to low-income pregnant women. Their coverage of this story included an email from behavior expert and author, Alfie Kohn.
Mr. Kohn emailed his thoughts to the Christian Science Monitor on how rewards do not promote good values or enhance achievement.
“Research consistently finds that bribes, like threats, do not lead to lasting positive changes; at best they can only alter superficial behavior for a little while. Not only do rewards fail to work over the long haul, to get adults to stop smoking or lose weight, for example, or to get kids to read more or act generously, but they often make things worse. Scores of studies have found that the more you reward people to do something, the less committed they become to whatever they had to do to get the reward.”
Public health experts are looking at how offering financial incentives may help in solving some of the country’s major health concerns, including obesity and smoking. However, ethical concerns exist and are under review. Nonetheless, to quit smoking, money talks in this recent study when it comes to on how to increases the chance of success.
[Image courtesy of Cow Crumbs]