Do you want to quit smoking? The solution could be in the money

The English expression “put your money where your mouth is” might be more precise than ever when it comes to stop smoking.

A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that monetary incentives have been shown to be more effective than nicotine patches and cognitive behavioral therapy as a form of anti-smoking treatment.

Stop smoking with the reward

The starting point of the monetary incentive strategy is the Reward system of our brain as a starting point. The assumption is this: if you run out of money on it, you will have more reason to keep your promise to stay away from tobacco and you will be less inclined to postpone your “last cigarette” indefinitely. In other words, a betting-influenced reward system could go so far as to strengthen your willpower to a degree that neither chemical substitutes nor specific cognitive behavioral therapies can. Quitting smoking would thus become a matter of profit and loss.

But such a mercantilist logic can seem perverse if it is only based on incentives other than those provided by a healthier lifestyle. What happens when the economic incentives stop? Are smokers throwing themselves at packets of tobacco again? Fortunately, it seems not. The betting system has proven to be effective even six months later that researchers stop financially rewarding ex-smokers for not having tried tobacco.

How was the research conducted?

A total of 2,538 active smokers were used as a sample for the study. From this set for smokers, these people they were divided into four groups depending on the type of monetary incentive program in which they participate. These four programs were, to sum it up a bit (names are made up):

  • simple program. Quitting smoking for a series of days is rewarded based on the time you spend away from smoking. The researchers analyzed the volunteers’ saliva at three different times after starting the program: 14 days later, 30 days later, and 6 months later. In each of these exams, a sum of money could be obtained, the maximum of $ 800.

  • Simple program with deposit. This program was similar to the previous one, but the volunteers had to start leaving $ 150 as collateral. This money could only be recovered by spending 6 months without smoking.

  • Cooperative program. Each participant was assigned to a small group of six people. Individuals in each group earned money based on the number of people on their team who quit smoking.

  • Take the booty. Teams of six members were formed in which each person had to leave a deposit of $ 150. People who were successful in quitting smoking shared the sum of the links equally.

Volunteers who refused to participate in their assigned program were given the opportunity to quit using traditional methods.


The four programs have been shown more efficient than traditional methods of quitting smoking. However, the programs that performed the best were also the least popular – that is, the ones that fewer people were willing to start. These latter programs were the two that required the deposit of a deposit: although only 14% of those assigned started them, 52% of participants went 6 months without smoking, while this percentage of effectiveness decreased to 17%. % on alternatives based solely on a reward.

Of course, we do not all have access to the necessary tools do a saliva test. However, if you are considering quitting smoking, it is always good to keep in mind that behind all the justifications that one puts for smoking the last cigarette, there is a reward system that you should be able to put in between. sword and wall.

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