Cash Incentive Helps Some Kick the Habit
If every man has his price, then it must be possible to bribe at least a few smokers to quit.
That's part of the thinking behind "Quit and Win," a recent stop-smoking contest in Olmsted County, Minn., offered by public health workers and Mayo Clinic researchers. The challenge: stay clean for four weeks and prove it by submitting to breath analysis. The reward: a chance to win $500, $1,000 or $2,000 in a drawing. The contest also enrolled friends and family members as official nags--er, "support people"--and gave them a chance to take home $2,000, too. Researchers have long known that having a committed, nonsmoking champion around improves smokers' chances of quitting for good.
Although four weeks is a long haul for any heavy smoker, 42% of the 304 contestants pulled through, Mayo researchers report in this month's issue of Preventive Medicine. Once the contest was over, there was a steady erosion of willpower. But after a year, 11% of the original group was still smoke-free--which is about par for most smoking cessation programs. But at a cost of only a few hundred dollars per newly minted nonsmoker, that's about as cheap as it comes, the authors report.