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Moms-to-Be Get Paid to Quit Smoking

A creative new program in Oregon promises gift cards to pregnant smokers who go smoke-free. 

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By Chrisanne Grise

04/29/13

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A state-sponsored health organization in Eugene, Oregon is getting creative in its approach to curbing smoking among pregnant women, by rewarding those who quit with gift cards. Despite the risks of smoking during pregnancy—which include pre-term deliveries, fetal death and life-long medical complications like asthma and ear infections for the child—many moms-to-be have a hard time giving it up, especially since nicotine replacement products are discouraged during pregnancy. According to Dr. Holly Jo Hodges of the Trillium Health Plan, “up to 40% of women of child bearing age on the Oregon Health Plan smoked cigarettes and 32% of them continued to smoke while they were pregnant." Pregnant smokers who sign up for the new Trillium program will pick a quit date and sign up for counseling, returning again for check-ups after 16-weeks, where they undergo a urine test to prove they're smoke-free. Those who test negative for nicotine can earn $20 gift cards over time (up to $200 in total) to a department store—where their purchases are limited to baby clothes, groceries and household supplies. "If at any point in time somebody falls off the wagon, they had a stressful day, something happened and they go back to smoking and they test positive at any point along the way, they just don't get the gift certificate that time,” says Hodges, “But they're still eligible to get the certificate the next time." Trillium reportedly spends up to $1 million each year caring for babies suffering from the effects of smoking. According to Hodges, the goal is to get a third of the 500 women a year who deliver Trillium to stop smoking.

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