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

the other half was a control group. The employees were mostly white, about two-thirds male, and two-thirds of the group had attended at least some college. Most felt they were still in good health, despite their average pack-a-day habit.

All of the employees were given information about available smoking-cessation programs in their areas. Members of the financial incentive group were also told they would be given $100 for the completion of a smoking cessation program. Then, they would receive an additional $250 if they successfully quit smoking within six months from the start of the study, and they were promised another $400 if they stayed smoke-free for another six months. Smoke-free status was assessed using either a hair or urine sample to test for a substance known as cotinine, which is present when someone has smoked.

Nine to 12 months after the study began, 14.7 percent of the incentive group had kicked tobacco, compared to just 5 percent in the information-only group. Between 15 and 18 months after the study's start, 9.4 percent of those in the incentive group had stayed off cigarettes, compared to just 3.6 percent in the control group.

Volpp said he believe the financial incentives prodded more people to quit and stay off cigarettes because they provided positive feedback as well as immediate gratification.

"I think, in general, people have a lot of trouble making changes for the sake of delayed health benefits," he said.

"This study shows the power that a monetary incentive can offer, and the power of the workplace as a health promotion tool," Glynn said.

For employers, Volpp pointed out that it's often cost-effective to offer a financial incentive for employees to stop smoking. Quitting boosts productivity and decreases absenteeism and health-care costs, he said.

Glynn acknowledged that quitting smoking is very difficult, but smokers should know it's not impossible. "There are 47 mil
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