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Promise of Cash Prompts Smokers to Quit
Date:2/11/2009

Financial incentives tripled rates of cessation, study found,,,,

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Offering hard, cold cash to smokers to spur them to stop their unhealthy habit helps more people give up cigarettes, new research finds.

The study, published in the Feb. 12 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, included a large group of General Electric Co. employees across the country who were offered up to $750 to give up smoking. After about a year, 14.7 percent of the group that was offered money were still smoke-free, compared to just 5 percent of those who weren't paid to kick the habit.

"Incentives do work in changing health behaviors, and they can be successful in people who have not succeeded using other approaches in the past," said study author Dr. Kevin Volpp, director of the Center for Health Incentives at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and the Wharton School in Philadelphia.

Even though just 15 percent of those offered money ended up quitting for the long term, those success rates are still far higher than what's normally seen in smoking-cessation efforts.

"Only about 2 to 3 percent of smokers quit each year," said Thomas Glynn, director of cancer science and trends and international cancer control for the American Cancer Society.

Yet, as many as 70 percent of people who smoke report wanting to quit, according to background information in the study. Meanwhile, smoking remains the leading preventable cause of premature death in the United States.

"Four hundred and thirty-eight thousand [people] die in the U.S., and globally about 5 million people die each year from tobacco use. At any given time, about 9 million people are ill from tobacco use, and tobacco is associated with the development of 15 cancers," Glynn said.

Almost 900 GE employees were recruited for the study, and half were assigned to the incentive program, while
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