HealthDay News — Financial incentives added to free cessation aids can improve the rate of sustained abstinence among smokers, according to a study published online May 23 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Scott D. Halpern, M.D., Ph.D., from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and colleagues randomized smokers employed by 54 companies to one of four smoking-cessation interventions or usual care. Usual care consisted of access to information relating to the benefits of smoking cessation and a motivational text messaging service. 

The interventions consisted of usual care plus one of the following: free cessation aids (nicotine-replacement therapy or pharmacotherapies, plus e-cigarettes if standard therapies failed); free e-cigarettes; free cessation aids plus $600 in rewards for sustained abstinence; and free cessation aids plus $600 in redeemable funds deposited in a separate account for each participant, with money removed if cessation milestones were not met. A total of 6,006 smokers were randomized.

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The researchers found that sustained abstinence rates through six months were 0.1, 0.5, 1, 2, and 2.9 in the usual care, free cessation aids, free e-cigarettes, rewards, and redeemable deposit groups, respectively. The redeemable deposits and rewards were superior to free cessation aids with respect to sustained abstinence rates. Redeemable deposits were superior to free e-cigarettes; free e-cigarettes were not superior to usual care or free cessation aids.

“In this pragmatic trial of smoking cessation, financial incentives added to free cessation aids resulted in a higher rate of sustained smoking abstinence than free cessation aids alone,” the authors write.

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