Cash incentive better motivator to quit than e-cigarettes

The findings of a new study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, suggests e-cigarettes do not help smokers to quit more than traditional smoking cessation aids, though financial incentives do.

The workplace incentive program divided over 6,000 participants into five randomised groups. One group was offered advice and access to a motivational text-messages, another received free cessation aids, including all forms of nicotine-replacement therapy (NRT), and the third also received e-cigarettes. The remaining two groups received all those things, plus a financial incentive of $600 – either straight away, with the condition it gets taken back if they start smoking again, or as a reward after successfully stopping smoking.

The researchers measured the number of participants who refrained from smoking for six months to determine which strategies were most effective. The success rates of each of the strategies ranked highest to lowest, were as follows: the redeemable deposit (2.9%), reward (2%), e-cigarettes (1%), free cessation aids (0.5%) and usual care (0.1%).

The study demonstrated workplace smoking-cessation programs that offer free pharmacologic cessation aids or e-cigarettes yield low rates of smoking abstinence. In contrast, financial incentives tripled the rates of smoking cessation after six months. The average cost per successful quit was also lower for the financial incentives than e-cigarettes and free cessation aids.

“Programs that offered financial incentives tripled the rates of smoking cessation, reduced employers’ costs per successful quit as compared with programs that offered cessation aids alone, and yielded total costs that compared favorably with the costs of employing smokers,” the study concluded.

Source:  Halpern, Scott D.; et al. “A Pragmatic Trial of E-Cigarettes, Incentives, and Drugs for Smoking Cessation,” The New England Journal of Medicine, May 2018. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMsa1715757.