The deal:

Financial incentives increase smokers’ chances of quitting by 50 percent, new research shows.


Background:

Scientists evaluated 33 trials—conducted across eight countries with over 21,000 participants, including pregnant women—and found that neither the amount of money nor its form (vouchers, cash, deposits) mattered.

The £35 pound reward worked as well as the £912 one—and six months after quitting, even without further cash incentives, former smokers continued to abstain from cigarettes.

Lead author Dr Caitlin Notley of East Anglia University, noting that the other 50 percent received cash incentives but failed to quit, still urged doctors to propose alternatives such as e-cigarettes.


Detractors say:

Critics argue it is unfair to healthy, responsible adults who avoid harmful activities that smokers receive money to stop a habit they chose to engage in.

With legislation against tobacco advertising and branding, there is no excuse to start smoking—and the rewards system could easily be abused, skeptics add.


Advocates respond:

Supporters highlight smoking currently costs Britain £13 billion annually: over £3 billion in National Health Service expenses and £7.5 billion in lost productivity.

Public health experts affirm such a policy would save vast amounts of money—and at least addresses the problem as it is.


The debate:

Should governments pay people to quit smoking?