Bribery the key to quitting smoking, say researchers

Financial incentives could help smokers to quitPic: Getty

Giving up smoking is a notoriously tricky business, but according to research, bribery could make the task a whole lot easier.

A team of researchers at Newcastle University, whose report was published in the journal PLoS ONE, looked at the results of 16 studies where financial incentives had been used to encourage people to stick to a variety of tasks, including exercising more and giving up smoking.

They found that smokers given the 'carrot' of an incentive were more than twice as likely to give up for six months than those who were just given helpful tips on how to quit.

The size of the incentive made little difference to success rates, and financial penalties, where the participants lost a deposit if they failed in their mission, was also found to be effective.

Across all the studies, the attraction of an incentive resulted in a 62 per cent increase in the odds of successfully changing behaviour for the better.

While the researchers conceded that some began to slip back into bad habits once the incentives dried up, they suggested that using supermarket vouchers as 'rewards' for smokers giving up could save the NHS money long term.

Researcher Dr Jean Adams said: "We try all kinds of techniques to help people quit smoking or otherwise live healthy lives, so why not try this?

"It is about nudging people to healthier behaviours. There is a chance this could save the taxpayer money in the long run."

What do you think? Would a cash or voucher incentive encourage you to quit smoking? Leave your comments below...