Offering people cash incentives to quit smoking would work out cheaper in the long run for the British National Health Service (NHS).
New research has found that people are 50% more likely to quit if offered a financial incentive.
The research conducted by the Cochrane Library found offering cash credits to quit could save the NHS billions.
‘Smoking is the leading cause of disease and death worldwide. Most smokers want to quit, but stopping smoking can be really challenging,’ said Dr Caitlin Notley from the University of East Anglia’s medical school, the lead author of the study.
‘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.
Notley added: ‘Quitting smoking can greatly improve peoples’ health. Rewards, such as money or vouchers, have been used to encourage smokers to quit, and to reward them if they stay stopped. Such schemes have been used in workplaces, in clinics and hospitals, and within community programmes.’
The research comes just one week after the UK government announced its intention to end the smoking of cigarettes by 2030.
What the research found about quitting smoking
The team investigated whether rewards such as cash payments, vouchers, or the return of money deposited, worked.
They looked at results from 33 randomized controlled trials involving more than 21,600 people from eight countries.
‘We found that six months or more after the beginning of the trials, people receiving rewards were approximately 50% more likely to have stopped smoking than those in the control groups,’ Notley said.
‘In people not receiving incentives, approximately 7% had successfully quit for six months or longer, compared to approximately 10.5% of those receiving incentives.
‘This is an important increase when we consider the enormous harms of smoking, and benefits of quitting, and suggests that incentives can be a useful part of a comprehensive approach to help people quit smoking.’
Notley added: ‘Another really important thing is that success rates continued beyond when the incentives had ended.’