Offering small financial incentives doubles smoking cessation rates among socioeconomically disadvantaged smokers, according to research from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). The findings were published recently in the American Journal of Public Health.
Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Thanks to public health efforts, smoking rates have declined to 18 percent among American adults. However, nearly 30 percent of people living in poverty continue to smoke. Smoking is becoming increasingly concentrated in socioeconomically disadvantaged populations, according to the study authors.
“We wanted to investigate how small and potentially cost-effective financial incentives might help safety net hospital patients quit smoking,” said Dr. Darla Kendzor, assistant professor in the Division of Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences at the UTHealth School of Public Health Dallas Regional Campus. Safety net hospitals provide a significant level of care to low-income, uninsured and vulnerable populations.
Researchers enrolled Parkland Smoking Cessation Clinic patients in Dallas from 2011 to 2013. Participants were randomly assigned to either usual clinic care or the intervention group. Usual care included an educational orientation session, weekly support group meetings, physician visits and pharmacological treatment. The intervention group received usual care and small financial incentives for biochemically-verified smoking abstinence.
Abstinence rates were significantly higher for those assigned to the intervention group at all visits following the quit date, with 49 percent remaining abstinent versus 25 percent of usual care participants at four weeks after the quit date. Twelve weeks after the quit date and eight weeks after incentives were discontinued, 33 percent of the financial incentives group were abstinent versus 14 percent in the usual care group.