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Study Finds Cash Incentives Effective in Smoking Cessation

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New research suggests that offering cash incentives as part of a program to help cigarette smokers quit significantly increases cessation rates, HealthDay News reported Feb.12.

About 900 employees of the General Electric Co. were recruited for the study. They were assigned to either receive information about smoking-cessation programs or to receive information plus financial incentives.

The financial-incentive group was told they would receive $100 for the completion of a smoking-cessation program, an additional $250 if they successfully quit smoking within six months from the start of the study, and another $400 if they stayed smoke-free for a further six months.

About a year after the study began, 14.7 percent of the incentive group had successfully stopped smoking, compared to 5 percent in the control group. Checked again 15 to 18 months after the study's start, 9.4 percent of those in the incentive group remained abstinent, compared to just 3.6 percent of the control group.

Noting that only about 2 to 3 percent of smokers quit every year, Thomas Glynn of the American Cancer Society said the study “shows the power that a monetary incentive can offer, and the power of the workplace as a health-promotion tool.”

The study appeared in the Feb. 12, 2009 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

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