Cash incentives for smokers could save NHS millions

As reported by The Guardian, research has found that huge NHS costs could be cut by offering cash incentives for smokers

New research shows that offering financial incentives for smokers could, in fact, save the NHS millions.

The results showed that people were 50% more likely to quit smoking if they were rewarded for it.

These rewards varied from gift vouches to cash (between £35 and £912).

Since smoking costs the economy around £13bn a year, incentives such as these could reduce that while improving 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,” said Dr Caitlin Notley from the University of East Anglia’s medical school, the lead author of the study.

33 trials across eight countries were conducted for this study and published by the Cochraine Library.

Over 21,000 participants took part. Interestingly, the study’s authors found that the size of the reward made no difference.

Notley’s team also found that the incentive continued to be effective beyond the short-term.

“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 did clarify that incentives don’t work for everybody.

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.”

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