Smokers More Likely to Quit for Money, Study Finds

By May Wilkerson 05/15/15

The threat of taking away money proved to be even more effective.

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Money might not buy everything, but it can sure help people quit smoking. According to a new study, smokers are more likely to stop when there’s cash on the line.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, compared five different smoking cessation methods among 2,000 CVS employees. Researchers found that offering smokers a cash reward if they quit was effective. But even more effective was a technique in which smokers would have money taken away if they tried to quit and failed.

In this program, smokers were asked to put down a cash deposit that they would lose if they resumed the habit. Researchers found it was twice as effective as simply giving out cash rewards, and five times more effective than giving out free smoking cessation aids, like nicotine gum or the patch.

“It leveraged people’s natural aversion to losing money,” said lead author Dr. Scott Halpern of the University of Pennsylvania. The hard part was getting smokers to sign up for this method, which was understandably much less popular than the promise of a cash reward. “The trick now is to refine the deposit programs so they’ll be more popular without losing much, if any, of their effectiveness,” said Halpern.

The study also found that quitting methods that involved a group were more effective than methods where individuals tried to quit on their own.

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.