>Current stop smoking quit rates range anywhere from 3% to the mid twenties. These are pitiful results because of the addictive nature of nicotine. Roughly 85% of all smokers are clinically addicted to nicotine. Since nicotine is just as addictive as cocaine, you can see why the success rate is so low, relatively speaking.
Many people wrongly feel that you can lay down an addictive habit as easily as you picked it up. This is grossly incorrect. Ask a recovering alcoholic how difficult it was to stop drinking. Then you’ll discover that for many of these smokers, it is simply no longer a choice to stop smoking. Oh sure, they may “try” to stop, but it is next to impossible for them to be successful without some overriding behavioral or medicinal assistance.
This has given rise to many experimental schemes all designed to assist the smoker in their efforts to become a former smoker. Many try giving a placebo method and label it as a new natural stop smoking aid or they’ll provide a medication as a shot and offer it in an off-label manner as the newest stop smoking shot. Others try to cajole smokers through whatever means, scientific or not, to get the desired affect - smoking cessation.
There are researchers currently looking at a nicotine vaccine which does show some promise, however, it is still in the clinical trials and may not be ready for some time. Well, enter in the field of study called, behavioral economics. This science looks at how emotions determine a person’s financial choices. In other words, does depression cause us to save money or spend it?
In Europe and the United States, behaviorists are examining how the influence of money affects a person’s ability to stop smoking. In essence, can a person be paid-off to stop smoking? We’re talking bribery here folks. How much money do I have to pay you, in order for you to stop smoking? Wow, that’s a great question isn’t it?
Managers will tell you how annual merit increases are not primary motivators for people to work hard at their jobs, but rather recognition and autonomy might be what pushes people’s buttons to perform at a top level. However, early research is showing how financial rewards might just be doing the trick as a motivator in smoking cessation clinics.
A recent article from Reuters discusses how this is impacting a community in Scotland. The concept points to a pay the smoker now to quit, and hope to save the enormous health cost liability later - when the ill-effects of smoking start showing up. These are the ones we’re all familiar with like COPD, lung cancer and cardiovascular disease. They are hoping to employ this cost avoidance strategy through what amounts to a bribe and it seems to be working.
Reuters reports in one region of Scotland where a approximately 200 women had stopped smoking as a result of the bribery scheme, compared to only 6 from the previous year and those 6 had lost contact with the smoking cessation resources for that region.
This can be compared to many US corporations who promise to pay more of the health insurance premiums if their employees take part in a wellness program that tracks individual progress to certain health goals. For instance, if you lose 20 pounds, you may have to pay $2 less per pay period for your health insurance premiums. Or if you stop smoking, you may receive a $10 a week discount on your insurance premiums per pay period.
Some researchers discount the “pay to get healthy” results because of a meta-analysis study that showed financial incentives did not work to help people stop smoking after 12 months. The thought is, once they get their financial reward, they’ll start smoking again. Others feel this just needs more time to work and study.
The concept is still relatively new, but matches a cultural mindset that says, “if you want change, then show me the money”. One of the directors of this program in Scotland stated the key as having to work with the smokers to come up with motivators that smokers really think about. For instance, many who smoke are poorly educated and in the lower income ranges. They think about money all the time. For them, smoking seems absolutely impossible to quit, so they resolve themselves to continue smoking, even though it costs money. Now say to them you’ll actually pay them to stop smoking. What is going through their minds now? They get a little stipend and no longer buy the cigarettes. That’s a double windfall.