Getting Paid to Quit: A Team Approach to Smoking Cessation


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Smoking cessation is easier with a team. Image by emop.

Smoking cessation is easier with a team. Image by emop.

I asked Dr. Sang Haak about the amount paid in proportion to the price of cigarettes and the average earnings of the participants.

Decoded Science: According to, the amount paid was modest, the equivalent of approximately $45 dollars for the first month, and $90 subsequently. How do these amounts compare with the price of a pack of cigarettes in Korea? How does the amount compare to an average weekly wage?

Dr. Haak answered, “The price of a pack of cigarettes is around 2.3 dollars. The weekly wage depends on many factors but the average would be around 700 to 1,000 dollars.”

Quitting Smoking: The Results and Implications:

The article reported that the team approach, signing up with others and being rewarded with them at the workplace, was highly effective.  The [a]bstinence rate at 3, 6 and 12 months after the initial cessation were 61%, 54% and 50%, respectively.”  In contrast, another web-based smoking cessation approach boasts about its 20% abstinence rate at one year.

Since prices are so much lower in Korea, it stands to reason that Americans might have to have a higher financial incentive for rewards to be commensurate with those offered by Dr. Sang Haak and colleagues.  When asked who would be likely to pay for such incentives, Sang Haak noted that the workplace (a hospital) picked up the tab for his program.

Individuals who actively participated immediately after signing up for the program had the best cessation rates. In our interview, Dr. Sang Haak explained, “Traditionally, the  transtheoretical model of smoking habit change categorizes into a series of  precontemplation (no thought of quitting), contemplation (thinking about  quitting), preparation (planning to quit in the next 30 days), action (quitting  successfully for up to six months), and maintenance (no smoking for more than  six months). These results indicate that smokers  enrolled within 1 month were more likely to be in contemplation-preparation  stages in our study and their abstinence rate was more favorable in short  term.”  In other words, the participants that signed up and started early were emotionally ready to commit.

Team Smoking Cessation: Will It Work Elsewhere?

Dr. Sang Haak is hopeful that ” ‘these results suggest that the financial incentives given to teams could make use of the potential for peer pressure and peer support over a longer period and  could be a promising and effective  intervention to stop smoking in the workplace.”  Dr. Sang Haak believes that the team-plus-cash approach to kicking the habit would prove effective in other situations, such as churches, colleges and in recreational clubs-any place where people want to team up to conquer nicotine.


Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Smoking & Tobacco Use. (2012). Accessed October 18, 2012.

Munoz, Ricardo F. Successful Web-based Smoking Cessation Program Yields 20% Abstinence Rates at One Year. University of California, San Francisco. Accessed October 18, 2012.

Sang, Haak, L. Cessation Team Formulated in the Workplace Helped Motivate Cigarette Smokers to Quit. (2012). Presented at the 11th Annual AACR International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research; Personal Interview, October 2012.

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