• 17 July 2019
  • 3 min read

NHS ‘could save billions’ by giving out cash to those who quit smoking

  • Nurses.co.uk News
    Editorial and news team

Researchers have found that quitters are 50% more likely to succeed if offered an incentive in the form of a cash reward.

Research has found that the incentive of a cash reward to those quitting smoking could save the NHS billions a year and boost the economy, according to The Guardian.

Researchers found that smokers were 50% more likely to quit smoking when receiving a cash reward than those who weren’t.

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The value of these rewards varied from £35 to £912 in the form of cash payments, gift vouchers or a refundable deposit that was paid by the participants.

£13 billion - how much smoking costs the economy each year

Smoking costs the economy around £13bn a year, including costs of £3bn to the NHS and social care, says The Guardian.

Researchers say that not only do these findings point to a solid way of reducing these costs, but it will also improve public health.

“In comparison to the total amount that the NHS has to set aside in the UK for smoking-related diseases, the cost of providing incentives is incredibly small in comparison,” - Dr Caitlin Notley, lead author of the study

“In comparison to the total amount that the NHS has to set aside in the UK for smoking-related diseases, the cost of providing incentives is incredibly small in comparison,” said Dr Caitlin Notley from the University of East Anglia’s medical school, the lead author of the study.

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More than 21,000 participants who were looking to give up smoking took part in the research.

The results included 33 trials across 8 countries, including 10 trails of pregnant women trying to stop smoking.

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According to The Guardian, the value of the cash reward made no difference to the success rate - even the smallest of rewards increased the likelihood of a smoker quitting.

Previous research had found worries about using a cash incentive to get people to quit, suggesting they were only effective all the time they were in place.

However, Notley and her team have looked at the long term results of at least 6 months after the participants quit smoking.

“Incentives support people in the early stages of trying to quit smoking, which are the most difficult, and once people have made that health behaviour change and the incentives are removed, they’re more likely to stay abstinent from smoking in the longer term,” said Notley.

Notley has warned, though, that incentives don’t work for everyone.

Quitters should also be offered other methods to help them stop, such as e-cigarettes.

Dr Penny Woods, the chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: “Offering financial incentives to help people quit smoking has been dismissed in the past, so it’s fantastic to see strong evidence that these innovative schemes work.

“Local authorities should consider this new research when designing comprehensive stop smoking services, as it could help target those in our communities who struggle the most to give up cigarettes.”