Maastricht University launches study on quitting smoking in the workplace

How effective is rewarding people who quit smoking?

Maastricht University is launching a study on quitting smoking in the workplace. The objective is to determine the positive effects of rewarding employees with a gift voucher if they successfully quit smoking. A total of 640 employees from more than forty companies will follow a seven-week smoking cessation course. Maastricht University is currently looking for more companies interested in participating in the study.

UM is the first organisation in the Netherlands to investigate whether a reward will motivate smokers to quit. Employees can earn up to €350 for participating in the study. They will receive the first gift voucher (€50) immediately after completing the group training session and the second and third vouchers (each worth €50) at the three-month and six-month mark. The fourth and final gift voucher (€200) will be awarded at the twelve-month mark. Several groups per company can participate in the study, with each group consisting of eight to sixteen people. Similar studies carried out abroad found that rewards increased smoking cessation by 2.5 to 3 times.

But why would you need to reward people for something that will benefit them anyway? 'It may sound odd to reward employees for quitting smoking, but if it works it will have a positive impact on their health,' says professor and project leader Onno van Schayck. 'This will help to reduce healthcare costs considerably, which is in everyone's interest – including non-smokers. Employers will also save a lot of money, given that smokers are simply more expensive to employ.'

Interested companies can register by sending an email to
The UM study is being funded by the National Cancer Foundation/KWF. Quitting smoking reduces the risk of cancer, which is why the KWF supports studies that promote smoking cessation. Non-smokers live ten years longer on average and lead a healthier life than smokers. In economic terms, employees who smoke cost companies more money. Smokers have an absenteeism rate that is 1.5 times higher than non-smokers. Smoking also leads to production losses due to smoke breaks and premature loss due to illness or death.

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