Featured Review: Incentives for smoking cessation

Evidence published in the Cochrane Library provides strong evidence that financial incentives helped people to stop smoking and stay stopped long term.

The team investigated whether rewards such as cash payments, vouchers, or the return of money deposited by those taking part, worked. The review summarizes the results from 33 randomised controlled trials involving more than 21,600 people from eight countries. They included ten trials that focused on pregnant smokers who were rewarded with vouchers for quitting and staying smoke free.

The review was led by University of East Anglia (UK) and involved researchers from the University of Oxford and the University of Stirling. Lead author Dr Caitlin Notley, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “Smoking is the leading cause of disease and death worldwide. Most smokers want to quit, but stopping smoking can be really challenging.

We found that six months or more after the beginning of the trials, people receiving rewards were approximately 50 per cent more likely to have stopped smoking than those in the control groups.  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. Another really important thing is that success rates continued beyond when the incentives had ended."