Money can help people quit smoking better than e-cigarettes

Hindustan Times | By
May 27, 2018 04:26 PM IST

As compared to nicotine patches or e-cigarettes, financial aids are three times more effective in helping people quit smoking, suggests a new study.

While many smokers try to quit after realising the side effects of smoking, several smokers make a shift to nicotine patches, chewing gums or e-cigarettes. But these cessation aids also have their own side effects.

Offering financial incentives led to higher quit rates, shows the study.(Shutterstock)
Offering financial incentives led to higher quit rates, shows the study.(Shutterstock)

A research paper published in the Indian Journal of Medical Paediatric Oncology by oncologists from the Tata Memorial Hospital says that nicotine, in any form, be it as a gum or a patch, can pose several health hazards of varying severity. “It directly decreases the immune response and negatively impacts reproductive health,” states the paper. And as for e-cigarettes, research has shown that e-cigarettes are loaded with toxic metals, can cause cancer and harm your liver.

Now, a new study done by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania in the US shows cash incentives are three times more effective to help smokers kick the butt than smoking cessation aids. A 2017 report in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine had also suggested that cash incentives could help smokers to give up cigarettes.

Some studies have linked e-cigarettes to cancer and liver damage. (Shutterstock)
Some studies have linked e-cigarettes to cancer and liver damage. (Shutterstock)

What the study shows

The research highlights how merely offering such aids for free does not help employees quit, whereas supplementing them with financial incentives is three times more effective.

The study has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine, and provides the first large-scale evidence that offering e-cigarettes to known smokers is not effective at helping smokers stay smoke-free. “The new study drives forward previous research by showing that even among smokers who are not cherry-picked on the basis of their motivation to quit, financial incentives still triple quit rates, whereas offering free conventional cessation aids or free e-cigarettes accomplishes nothing at all,” said Scott D Halpern, an associate professor at University of Pennsylvania in the US.

The study found that overall, only 1.3% of participants remained smoke-free for at least six months. However, the quit rates for redeemable deposits were significantly higher than with free cessation aids or with free e-cigarettes, and the quit rate for the rewards group was also higher than for cessation aids. By contrast, no differences were found in the quit rates among participants assigned to free e-cigarettes, free cessation aids, or usual care.“The result is concerning because it suggests that e-cigarettes may do more harm than good,” Halpern said.

Exercise can reduce withdrawal symptoms. (Shutterstock)
Exercise can reduce withdrawal symptoms. (Shutterstock)

Here are some of the other ways to quit smoking:

* Turn to Facebook for help

A clinical trial done by the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF) shows that smokers were 2.5 times more likely to quit post an intervention delivered entirely on social networking giant Facebook than by other online quit-smoking programmes.

* Lower levels of nicotine

A study, which examined the effects of nicotine reduction among more vulnerable smokers, recommends lowering nicotine to non-addictive levels. The research team, led by Stephen Higgins, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry, suggested that there was evidence that reducing the nicotine content of cigarettes reduces their addictiveness.

* Go running

A study by the St George’s University of London found that exercise during nicotine exposure reduces the severity of nicotine withdrawal symptoms.

(With inputs from PTI)

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    Soma is an Assistant Editor for the weekend supplement HT 48 Hours. She writes on lifestyle, art and culture.

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