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University offers smokers a lot of money to quit


Quitting smoking for a fee is easier
Smoking not only endangers health, it also causes bad breath and odors, is addictive and expensive. There are enough reasons to stay away from cigarettes. Unfortunately, this is difficult for most people. Swiss researchers have now carried out a promising experiment. They have given smokers financial incentives to quit.

Smoking favors many serious illnesses
Smoking is dangerous for your health. Tobacco consumption favors twelve types of cancer such as lung cancer, pancreatic cancer and colorectal cancer, cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke, diabetes, arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) or the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease COPD (smoker's lung). The smoke also makes you stink. Last but not least, cigarettes are expensive.

Good reasons for stopping smoking
So there are indeed many good reasons to quit smoking. Some smokers can quit more easily, but most find it very difficult to stop smoking. Some believe that smokers need a firm will to get out of their addiction. Others say cold withdrawal is the best way to stop smoking.

Swiss scientists have now tested a fairly simple method by which quitting can work: the researchers at the University of Geneva have offered smokers money to quit.

Low earners smoke more often
As the Swiss national news agency (sda) reports, low earners smoke more frequently and could be particularly susceptible to financial incentives to quit. A research team led by Jean-François Etter from the University of Geneva has now tested whether the prospect of money is enough to end the addiction or whether additional aids are needed.

The scientists found that a financial incentive works about as well as medication or medical aids such as nicotine patches. The various means could be even more effective in combination. The researchers published their results in the journal Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Quitting smoking is rewarded financially
According to the information, 800 smokers took part in the study, whose annual income was less than 50,000 Swiss francs (around 46,000 euros). The subjects who were all supposed to quit smoking were divided into two groups. One group received supermarket vouchers with increasing value for quitting. Those who stayed smoke-free for the first six months received a total of CHF 1,500 (almost EUR 1,400).

Biochemical tests were carried out to check whether the study participants actually stayed away from cigarettes. After six months there were no further rewards. The subjects were checked again after 18 months to see whether they remained smoke-free.

Many start smoking again
According to the information, over half (55 percent) of the study participants who received the vouchers remained smoke-free for the first three months. For those without a reward, it was only twelve percent. And after six months, it was 45 percent versus 11 percent. However, most of this group started smoking again after the financial incentive ceased. After 18 months, according to the sda ​​report, only 9.5 percent were smoke-free.

Long-term success rate
This long-term success rate was at least 5.8 percentage points above that when there was no reward (3.7 percent). Medical aids and medications create a similar increase in the success rate. The researchers believe that a combination of medical and financial incentives could be even more effective.

The rewards would also have to be extended over a longer period. "We think that could reduce the number of people who start smoking again," says Etter.

Cost effective against healthcare costs
"Even if the financial incentive approach was more expensive than the medication approach, it could still be cost effective compared to the huge health costs of smoking," said Etter.

While there are already smartphone apps that show smokers how much money they can save by quitting, to his knowledge, there has been no study to date of comparing real incentives and calculating saved money, Etter told sda . However, he and his team are currently working on a study on the efficiency of the Stop Tobacco app. (ad)

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