The New York Times (5/14, A19, Tavernise, Subscription Publication) reports that a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine Wednesday found that “offering incentives was far more effective in getting people to stop smoking than the traditional approach” of smoking cessation counseling or nicotine replacement therapy. Specifically, researchers found that while more people agreed to a financial reward program over a penalty program, those who agreed to risk a penalty, such as losing a $150 deposit, “were twice as likely to quit” as those in the reward program. The study involved 2,500 people and was “the largest to date to test whether offering financial incentives could lead to better health.”
According to the Los Angeles Times (5/14, Kaplan), the researchers explain that while the penalty approach offers better results, only 14% of participants opted to go that route, while 90% enrolled in the pure reward program. The study’s authors believe future research will be needed to find “an ideal amount that’s not too steep to scare people off but still high enough to motivate smokers to earn it back.”
— “Study Asks if Carrot or Stick Can Better Help Smokers Quit,” Sabrina Tavernise, New York Times, May 13, 2015.