Cochrane Summaries

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Do competitions and incentives help smokers to quit in the medium to long term

Cahill K, Perera R
Published Online: 
15 June 2011

Smokers may quit while they take part in a competition or receive rewards for quitting, but generally do no better than unassisted quitters once the rewards stop. We found 19 studies (more than 4500 smokers) to include in this review. One trial of 878 smokers which achieved high and long-lasting success rates put its resources into a programme of large cash rewards (up to US$750), rather than into running its own smoking cessation programme. In the remaining 18 trials, whether or not the smokers put up their own money to take part made little difference to the success of their quit attempt. Paying smokers variable amounts of cash depending on their success in quitting was no more effective than paying them fixed amounts for attending the programme. Competitions and rewards may attract more people to make a quit attempt than might otherwise do so, but cessation rates remain broadly the same as for non-contestants. Future research may wish to explore the most effective size of cash payments, and how long they should be maintained to achieve lasting results. It should also test these findings in a variety of different populations of smokers, from various regions, social and economic groupings and ethnic mixes.