What if someone paid you to give up a bad habit? Could you be persuaded to stop chewing on your fingernails, throwing dirty socks on the floor or eating too much junk food if you received money in exchange?
A new study by the Cochrane Library shows the tactic is helpful for many people trying to quit smoking. To understand long-term effects of such a technique, researchers from the United Kingdom reviewed more than 30 studies about whether financial rewards got more people to quit, and to quit long term.
Monetary rewards for ditching smoking take different forms. Some programs give cash, others offer vouchers, and some will ask smokers to put in their own money as “deposits.” If a person quits, he or she can have their money back. Some employers run a version of a stop-smoking incentive program as part of their health plans. In other cases, its a community, health clinic or drug clinic initiative.
The Cochrane studies included almost 22,000 people and took place in eight different countries.
Results showed that six months after the start of experiments, people were 50% more likely to have quit smoking and stayed away from the habit when financial incentives were provided. Even after the rewards stopped, those who received money had more success in quitting.
The authors also looked at nine other studies focused on pregnant smokers. People from this group also did better with financial rewards.
This strategy seems like a win all the way around for smokers. They get better health, more money gained through the rewards and less money spent on cigarettes. Who knows? Maybe money can be the key to solving other kinds of health challenges.