No Smoking Day arrives as financial rewards are considered for quitters
12th March 2014
no smoking dayNo Smoking Day is upon us today as millions of smokers in Britain and indeed around the rest of the world are encouraged to at least give up cigarettes for this one day to help prepare them to give them up for good in the near future. Basically, if you can successfully do it for this one day, you should see you are able to do it everyday eventually! In the three decades following the introduction of No Smoking Day in 1983, the proportion of UK adult smokers has fell from a third to a fifth, but the fact remains that there are still a staggering ten million smokers in the country and 100,000 of them will lose their lives each year as a result of this dangerous habit, such as from heart or circulatory diseases. Although an estimated one in five UK adults smoke, studies have previously indicated that around two thirds of them would like to quit smoking. Therefore, today’s No Smoking Day is the perfect time to start. This year’s No Smoking Day has been given a ‘V for Victory’ theme to it, hopefully helping hundreds of thousands of smokers to win the fight against cigarettes and it has now become one of the UK’s biggest annual health awareness campaigns. However, could bribing smokers to quit be the answer? The findings of a new study indicated that smokers were more likely to quit when there were financial rewards to be gained from it – even as little as just £3 was found to be effective. Researchers at Newcastle University assessed the results of 16 projects where people were urged to stop smoking, lose weight, go for vaccinations, or attend cancer screening appointments and were then awarded money, vouchers, lottery tickets or other financial incentives to improve their ways. The study, published in the journal PLoS ONE, states that the smokers these schemes were more than twice as likely to stop smoking for six months compared to people merely given advice on how best to quit. Collating the results from all the schemes, the researchers came to the conclusion that financial incentives managed to raise the chance of behaviour improving by an impressive 62% and interestingly it was found higher amounts of money on offer were not much more effective than smaller ones. Interestingly, the risk of being penalised financially also worked as a motivator, but it was found that people tend to change for the worse once the incentives are pulled. The researchers argue there are those who will no doubt eventually return to their previous ways regardless of which method they have undertaken in order to quit smoking, lose weight, or other ways of improving their health. Researcher Dr Jean Adams described such schemes as providing ‘rewards’ rather than ‘bribes’ and though the 16 projects they looked at were given in the US, similar financial motivations for patients may save the NHS a lot of money in the long-term. Dr Adams said: “We try all kinds of techniques to help people quit smoking or otherwise live healthy lives, so why not try this? It is about nudging people to healthier behaviours. There is a chance this could save the taxpayer money in the long-run.”