A gift voucher from the boss helps employees quit smoking

Quitting smoking is easier if you're rewarded for it. According to research by Maastricht University (UM), employees find quitting easier to maintain if they are given a reward, in addition to following a smoking cessation training programme at work. In the research group that received a gift voucher, well over 41% had successfully quit after a year, compared to just 26% in the control group. The national study also found this approach to be successful among smokers with a lower socioeconomic status, a group that is notoriously hard to reach. The research results were published today in the leading scientific journal The Lancet Public Health  .

Reward

“We have demonstrated for the first time in the Netherlands that a reward for smoking cessation combined with a training programme at work leads to a higher success rate. If all Dutch employers apply this method to help employees quit smoking, it could make a significant contribution to smoking cessation in the Netherlands,” says UM researcher Floor van den Brand. During this study, participating employees could earn up to €350 if they quit smoking. They received the first gift voucher (€50) immediately after completing the group training session, which was organised by specialised company SineFuma in Breda. They were given an additional €50 voucher if they successfully quit at the three-month and six-month mark. The fourth and final gift voucher (€200) was awarded at the twelve-month mark. A total of 600 employees from more than sixty companies and institutions participated in a smoking cessation course.

Prevention agreement

The results of the so-called CATCH study offer prospects for rolling out large-scale smoking cessation programmes. “High smoking cessation rates like these were rare in the past,” says Onno van Schayck, professor of Preventive Medicine at UM and the study’s project leader. “Even more remarkable is that this approach appears to be highly effective among smokers with a low socioeconomic status. The National Prevention Agreement, which will soon be signed by the government, the business community and social organisations, is geared towards people with a low socioeconomic status. This aspect in particular can be implemented with great success in a business setting.”

Practice

“Now that we've demonstrated that gift vouchers work, it's important to apply our strategy in practice to reduce smoking among Dutch employees,” explains Van den Brand. “In a follow-up study, I plan to research the best way to convince employers to implement a reward-based smoking cessation programme at work, together with my colleague Gera Nagelhout from the Addiction Research Institute (IVO). We also want to research the best way to get employees enthusiastic about participating.” The UM study was funded by the National Cancer Foundation/KWF. “This is a great solution for people who want to quit smoking,” says Johan van de Gronden, director of KWF. “Rewards work and give employers the opportunity to help people maintain a healthy lifestyle.”

This research was conducted by CAPHRI.

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