A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine looked at different strategies to quit smoking, and while it found that none of them work all that well, even in conjunction, a multi-faceted approach works best.
In the study, the single biggest positive factor in a person’s chances was whether he/she wanted to quit in the first place.
“So really you have to have motivation for wanting to quit in order to be able to have any real chance of success, and then on top of that you need to have a way to take away some of those cravings,” said Dr. Michael White from the UConn School of Pharmacy.
Taking away those cravings was the second facet of the approach.
It showed that standard medications and nicotine replacement options, such as nicotine patches or gum, did have a benefit, albeit a small one. In the study, e-cigarettes performed twice as well as the other standard options, but the study was small enough that the results were not considered statistically significant.
In other words, that better performance could have been because of chance.
“But one of the things that we can say with some level of confidence is that [e-cigarettes are] at least similar in terms of its effectiveness and it could be an important strategy in the short-term,” Dr. White said.
The third facet was along the lines of positive reinforcement, and it worked well.
“What we found is that regardless of whether we look at all smokers or just those who are motivated to quit, paying them to do so is the most effective strategy,” said Dr. Scott Halpern from the University of Pennsylvania, who was one of the study’s authors.
The study found that offering a reward of $600 to quit for six months increased success rates two-fold, or three-fold in some sub-groups.
Amongst smokers in the study who were motivated to quit and also had access to standard smoking cessation options (the medication or nicotine gums or patches), the reward bumped their success rate up to 13 percent.
If you’re wondering who would be willing to pay someone $600 to quit, the answer could be employers.
Another study from UPenn found that it costs employers, on average, $5,813 dollars more per year to employ a smoker compared to a non-smoker.