According to a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine smokers are more likely to quit when there’s cash on the line. Dr. Scott Halpern from the University of Pennsylvania and his colleagues studied over 2000 CVS employees assigned to different smoking cessation programs. They found that offering smokers a cash reward if they quit was effective, but not as effective as an approach in which smokers would have money taken away if they tried to quit and failed. In the study, smokers had to put down a cash deposit that they’d lose if they went back to smoking. Researchers found it was twice as effective as simply giving out cash rewards, and five times more effective than giving out free smoking cessation aids, like nicotine gum or the patch. “It leveraged people’s natural aversion to losing money,” said lead author Dr. Scott Halpern. The hard part was getting smokers to sign up for this method, which was understandably much less popular than the promise of a cash reward. In the end, more people who were assigned to the reward program (90%) agreed to participate than people who were assigned to the deposit approach (14%), likely because most people weren’t willing to put their own money on the line.
But when Halpern looked more closely at those who did enroll, the smokers in the deposit programs were twice as likely to be abstinent at six months than those in the reward group and five times as likely to be smoke-free than those who received only free counseling and nicotine replacement. The study also found that quitting methods that involved a group were more effective than methods where individuals tried to quit on their own.
For people struggling with drug and alcohol addiction, rates of success increase when they stop smoking so this type of information is so important to those battling chemical dependency.