Atlantis Medical News

Should NHS bribe smokers to quit?


25 JUL 2019

With the NHS looking to save money, the thought of offering financial incentives to encourage people to stop smoking raises eyebrows amongst people. However, this outlay in the short-term would be advantageous if it helped save money in the long term. Research suggests this act could save billions for the NHS, and it would positively affect the economy too.

The study suggests smokers were 50% more likely to stop when they obtained financial support, compared to smokers who didn’t. The study looked at a range of rewards, from £35 to £912. Cash and gift vouchers feature in the survey.

Smoking is a significant drain on the economy. A sum of £13bn each year is attributed to dealing with smoking. The NHS and social care bear around £3bn of this cost each year. There is a need to try new methods of convincing people to stop smoking.

Long-term benefits are worth pursuing

Dr Caitlin Notley, representing the medical school of the University of East Anglia is the lead author of the study. She said; “In comparison to the total amount that the NHS has to set aside in the UK for smoking-related diseases, the cost of providing incentives is incredibly small in comparison. Incentives support people in the early stages of trying to quit smoking, which are the most difficult, and once people have made that health behaviour change and the incentives are removed, they’re more likely to stay abstinent from smoking in the longer term.”

The Cochrane Library is behind the study. The results are based on more than 30 trials, taking place across eight countries and more than 21,000 people too part. The research included ten tests where pregnant woman indicated a willingness to quit.

Previous studies raised concerns over the use of financial reward to get people to stop smoking. These measures only worked in the short-term. However, recent research suggests that longer-term results are positive.

Different solutions are required

Of course, while this solution is likely to work for some people, it won’t work for other individuals. There are many reasons why people smoke, and for many, it is an enjoyable process. It is vital that all options are considered in the campaign to convince people to stop smoking.

Dr Penny Woods is the the chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, and she said: “Offering financial incentives to help people quit smoking has been dismissed in the past, so it’s fantastic to see strong evidence that these innovative schemes work. Local authorities should consider this new research when designing comprehensive stop smoking services, as it could help target those in our communities who struggle the most to give up cigarettes.”

It is natural if people have concerns about spending money to change behaviour. When the NHS lacks cash, there are many demands on any available funding. However, the long-term benefits would be of interest. At Atlantis Medical, we know there is a need to make changes in people’s lives, and this method could change many people’s lives for the better.


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TTS 27/07/2019

Personally I think it's wrong to bribe people to quit smoking. It feels like a punishment for people who don't smoke. Should everybody smoke to get a reward? So what's next ???? is it to bribe serial killers not to kill?


Bruno 27/07/2019

Agree 100%.