Money motivates smokers to quit

By Sheryl Kay • Published: May 4th, 2009
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

When it comes to kicking the cigarette habit, here’s the bottom line: Money talks.

Data now show that people who are offered cash to quit smoking are far more likely to stop than those who receive no monetary incentive, and they’re also more likely to stay off the habit for months afterward.

According to a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, researchers analyzed the smoking habits of nearly nine-hundred employees from the General Electric Corporation. All received information about smoking cessation programs, but about half of them also received $100 for completion of one of those programs, $250 if they kicked the habit for six months, and an additional $400 if they weren’t smoking cigarettes one year after they first quit. Researchers verified participants’ smoking status by taking hair and urine samples and then testing for cotinine [kō-tə-nēn], a substance that is present when someone has smoked.

The findings confirm the dollar is indeed mighty. While only five percent of the information-only group had kicked the smoking habit within the first twelve months of the study, nearly fifteen percent of those that received cash awards had quit. Even after eighteen months, nine-point-four percent of the incentive group had stayed off tobacco, while only three-point-six were smoke free in the control group.

The researchers went on to suggest that employers could save money by offering similar monetary incentives because they are far less expensive than the costs associated with smoking-related absences and illnesses.