Using incentives and rewards in worksite smoking interventions

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Smokers require high motivation to quit smoking and to remain smoke-free. Worksites might enhance motivation to be smoke-free by offering incentives to employees who quit smoking.

A pilot study was conducted where one worksite offered a smoking cessation group plus several incentive programs. The incentives included money and public recognition based on individual performance, and dinners based on group performance. After 12 months, 48% of participants remained smoke-free. This result is significantly different [x2(1)= 3.910, p<.05]. from the results of a smoking cessation group conducted a comparable company (here, 18% of participants remained smoke-free).

Another study was designed where one worksite would offer a smoking cessation group, and another worksite would offer an incentive program plus a smoking cessation group. Treatment conditions were randomly assigned. Both worksites were part of the same parent company (General Electric), thus minimizing differences between the companies. Many dimensions of the worksites and of participants at each worksite were assessed to demonstrate comparability between the worksites.

In the incentive condition monetary incentives were offered. Participants received $10 for not smoking for two weeks, four weeks. five weeks. six weeks, eight weeks and ten weeks. They received $20 for not smoking after three, four, five and six months. They received $25 for not smoking after nine months and 12 months. Their exhaled air was assessed on a carbon monoxide detector before receiving monetary rewards. As a result, 54% of the 28 participants were smoke-free after nine months.

In the non-incentive condition, participants were offered the same smoking cessation program but without major incentives. Participants were assessed on the carbon monoxide machine for five of the six consecutive months after the program ended. They were also assessed at the nine-month mark. Here, 44% of the 16 participants were smoke-free after nine months. Both interventions, then, were very successful. As a result none of the hypotheses of this study were supported.

This study did not employ a strong research design, and unforeseen changes in procedures weakened the study's validity. Despite these shortcomings, these interventions have merit. The intervention enabled a high percentage of people to quit smoking. These results might encourage smokers who want to quit. Given the success of these programs, hopefully a well-controlled study will be conducted to ascertain the effects of incentives and rewards upon worksite smoking interventions.