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To Your Health: NLM update Transcript

Incentives help smokers quit: 06/15/2015

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Greetings from the National Library of Medicine and MedlinePlus.gov

Regards to all our listeners!

I'm Rob Logan, Ph.D., senior staff, U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM).

Here is what's new this week in To Your Health, a consumer health oriented podcast from NLM, that helps you use MedlinePlus to follow up on weekly topics.

Adult smokers may be more likely to quit if their incentive to stop stems from betting on their will power instead of receiving a delayed reward for smoking cessation, finds an interesting study and accompanying editorial recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Yet, the study (which compared different types of incentives with no incentive) found both the will power and delayed reward incentive groups were more likely to quit smoking than participants who did not receive a smoking cessation intervention.

The randomized trial of 2358 smoker-employees of CVS Caremark, their relatives, and friends compared one group who bet $150 they could quit smoking, with a second group that was promised $850 if they ceased and a third who received no incentive to stop.

While both the groups with incentives were more likely to stop smoking after six months than the control group, there were interesting distinctions between the group that bet $150 on their will power to quit versus the participants who were promised $850. Briefly, while about 14 percent of the participants assigned to the deposit group were willing to bet $150 on their self-control, about 52 percent of the participants within this group abstained from smoking for six months. In contrast, about 90 percent of participants assigned to the $850 incentive group enrolled in the program but just 17 percent stopped smoking after six months.

In an editorial accompanying the study, its two authors explain the CVS Caremark study suggests two scenarios about smoker loss aversion behaviors.

The editorial's authors write (and we quote): 'The more obvious is that smokers are far more likely to quit if they stand to lose money if they fail. The more subtle is that the very prospect of incurring losses makes people far less willing to enter a smoking-cessation program. Despite the greater comparative effectiveness of the deposit program, the reward program is likely to be more successful, because far more people will sign up for it' (end of quote).

The editorial's authors add researchers should ask if a smaller deposit (or bet to quit) might increase participation without jeopardizing the number of persons who stop smoking.

The editorial's authors conclude (and we quote): 'The challenge is to find a way to nudge people to enroll in such programs. If that challenge cannot be met, reward programs are much better bets' (end of quote).

Meanwhile, a guide to stop smoking (from the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research) is available in the 'treatment' section of MedlinePlus.gov's quitting smoking health topic page. Links to specific programs to help teens, women, and seniors quit are available in the 'teenagers,' 'women,' and 'seniors' sections of MedlinePlus.gov's quitting smoking health topic page.

MedlinePlus.gov's quitting smoking health topic page also provides links to the latest pertinent journal research articles, which are available in the 'journal articles' section. Links to relevant clinical trials that may be occurring in your area are available in the 'clinical trials' section. You can sign up to receive updates about quitting smoking issues as they become available on MedlinePlus.gov.

To find MedlinePlus.gov's quitting smoking health topic page type 'quit smoking' in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov's home page, then, click on 'quitting smoking (National Library of Medicine).' MedlinePlus.gov also has a health topic page devoted to smoking.

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