People are significantly more likely to quit smoking if they get money for doing so, a study has revealed.
Researchers found quitters who were motivated with financial rewards are 50 per cent more likely to have kicked the habit after six months.
They said the NHS could save billions of pounds by using these incentives, such as cash or vouchers, to halt people’s deadly addictions.
Interestingly, the amount of money people were getting didn’t seem to make a difference.
The research reviewed 33 other studies involving 26,000 people, in which rewards ranged from £35 to £912, or even just people saving their own money to get it back if they succeeded.
Scientists at the University of East Anglia reviewed 33 other studies covering more than 26,000 people and found that, without financial motivation, seven per cent of people managed to quit for six months, and with it that figure rose to 10 per cent (stock image)
Experts at the University of East Anglia did the study and said it could provide clues to helping people to stop smoking, which is notoriously difficult.
‘Smoking is the leading cause of disease and death worldwide,’ said study author Dr Caitlin Notley.
‘Most smokers want to quit, but stopping smoking can be really challenging.
‘Quitting smoking can greatly improve peoples’ health. Rewards, such as money or vouchers, have been used to encourage smokers to quit, and to reward them if they stay stopped.
‘Such schemes have been used in workplaces, in clinics and hospitals, and within community programmes.
‘We wanted to know whether these schemes actually work long term, as previously it was thought that perhaps incentives only worked for the time that they were given.
‘We found that they do help people stay smoke free, even after the incentive scheme ends.’
About 5.9million people in the UK regularly smoke tobacco – one in seven adults.
The number has been tumbling for years and dropped by about 1.8million people from 7.7million in 2011, when the figure was closer to one in five.
And England has a smaller proportion of smokers than Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, with experts saying a ‘smoke-free generation’ is now in sight.
The habit is one of – if not the – biggest preventable killers in the world and is known to directly cause cancers in the lung and other parts of the body.
The proportion of people in England who smoke in England has dropped from 19.8 per cent in 2011 to 14.4 per cent – around one in seven people – in 2018, figures revealed this month
It also raises the risk of deadly conditions including dementia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and heart disease.
The research found that without financial motivation only seven per cent of people managed to quit for six months in any given attempt.
But if they were offered rewards like cash or vouchers, this success rate rose to 10 per cent.
‘This is an important increase when we consider the enormous harms of smoking, and benefits of quitting,’ Dr Notley said.
‘And [it] suggests that incentives can be a useful part of a comprehensive approach to help people quit smoking.
‘Another really important thing is that success rates continued beyond when the incentives had ended.’
The trials took in people from eight countries and everyone was followed up for at least six months – those who quit were checked by testing their breath or bodily fluids for traces of tobacco smoke.
Smoking costs the NHS billions of pounds a year and the East Anglia researchers said this could be saved if people were persuaded to quit for good.
Dr Notley added: ‘The cost of smoking to the economy is huge – around £13billion to the UK economy, including over £3bn for NHS and social care and £7.5bn to lost productivity. So these types of schemes could help save money as well as lives.’
The research was published in the journal Cochrane Library.
ONE IN TEN WOMEN STILL SMOKE WHEN PREGNANT
The smoking figures released today show that more than one in 10 women in England (10.6 per cent) smoke while they’re pregnant.
Last year more than 61,399 expectant mothers admitted to still being smokers at the time they gave birth.
Although this rate has fallen from 14.6 per cent of mothers in 2009, tens of thousands are still risking their own and their babies’ health.
Children whose mothers smoke in the womb are more likely to be born prematurely, have a low birth weight, be asthmatic or even die of cot death or a stillbirth.
They may also suffer health problems in adulthood because of carbon monoxide poisoning their brains.
The Government is aiming for the proportion of women who smoke while pregnant to drop below six per cent, but only 28 out of more than 200 local NHS boards achieved this last year.
Dr Clea Harmer, chief executive of stillbirth charity Sands, said: ‘Today’s figures show a worrying lack of progress in supporting all women to have smoke-free pregnancies.
‘Smoking is a leading cause of still birth and neonatal death and without urgent action the Government is at risk of missing not only the ambition of the Tobacco Control Plan but also its aim to halve rates of still births, neonatal and maternal deaths by 2025.’
Where women live has a strong effect on how likely they are to smoke while pregnant, with those in some areas 25 times more likely to smoke than those in others.
Women in some areas of London are up to 25 times less likely to smoke than those in West Lancashire, where one in four are still smoking cigarettes by the time their due date arrives
Mothers-to-be in West Lancashire have the highest rates of smoking in pregnancy, with a massive 25 per cent of them still smoking cigarettes when they give birth.
Hardwick in Derbyshire, Blackpool, South Tees, North East Lincolnshire, Swale and Durham Dales all have rates above 22 per cent of women.
Whereas expectant mothers in London are least likely to still be smoking cigarettes on their due date – just one in 100 mothers in West London do so.
And Westminster, Wandsworth, Richmond, Tower Hamlets, Hammersmith and Fulham and Barnet all had reported rates lower than three per cent.