Financial Incentives May Improve Smoking Cessation

Workers given money more likely to attend program, have higher smoking cessation rates
By Eric Metcalf
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Offering workers financial incentives to stop smoking was associated with higher long-term smoking cessation rates, according to research published in the Feb. 12 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Kevin G. Volpp, M.D., Ph.D., of the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and colleagues analyzed data from 878 employees of a large company based the United States. The study participants, who smoked at least five cigarettes daily, were randomized to receive information about nearby smoking-cessation programs with or without financial incentives. Incentives included $100 for finishing a cessation program, $250 for cessation within six months of study enrollment and $400 for abstaining a further six months.

Those in the incentive group were more likely to enroll in a cessation program than those in the information-only group (15.4 percent versus 5.4 percent, respectively), the researchers report. Smoking cessation within six months of enrollment was more prevalent in the incentive group (20.9 percent versus 11.8 percent), as was cessation at nine or 12 months after enrollment (14.7 percent versus 5 percent), the investigators found.

"The financial benefit to employers of having their employees stop smoking is estimated to be about $3,400 per year as a result of increased productivity, decreased absenteeism and a reduced incidence of illness. There is also strong evidence that employees prefer to work for firms that offer effective and attractive benefit programs. However, few employers offer full coverage of smoking-cessation services or cessation programs in the workplace," the authors write.

Several of the study co-authors disclosed relationships with pharmaceutical companies and other organizations.

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