Getting Paid to Quit: A Team Approach to Smoking Cessation


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Squashing the cigarette habit is easier with friends and cash. Image by Trostle.

Kicking the smoking habit is one of the hardest things to do.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “nicotine dependence is the most common form of dependence in the United States” and cigarettes are “as addictive as heroin, cocaine, or alcohol.

While middle schoolers in health classes are discouraged from caving in to peer pressure to try cigarettes, new evidence shows that peer pressure and cash can help people stop smoking.

The American Association for Cancer Research recently reported that teaming people up and paying them to quit is proving highly effective – at least in Korea.

Korean pulmonologist Dr. Lee Sang Haak and colleagues from The Catholic University of Korea, Seoul, Korea recently investigated the effect of paying workplace teams to quit smoking.

Smoking Cessation: The Teams and the Incentives

According to the authors, the workplace offers promise as a way to encourage smoking cessation, and a team approach was used to use the potential power of peer support and peer pressure.

The participants earned cash incentives for smoking cessation at different intervals:

  • Participants earned 50,000 Korean Won, the equivalent of $44.83, for one week and one month of smoking cessation
  • Participants earned twice that amount, or $89.65, three and six months of continued abstinence.

The twist to the scheme was that the money was awarded based on teamwork; the success of the team as a whole, rather than individual success.

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