May 09, 2021   2:33am

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Do smokers take bribes?

Old habits die hard, unless of course, money enters the picture. Case in point: According to the Wall Street Journal,* a recent study found that “smokers who are paid to quit succeed far more often than those who get no cash reward…”

The study, conducted by a team from the University of Pennsylvania, worked with General Electric employees to see if cash incentives would sway smokers to quit. GE employees scattered around the nation were tested, and of those offered $750 over a period of one year to quit smoking, 14.7% had quit smoking within a year, as opposed to 5% of those offered no monetary reward.

Though The Wall Street Journal cites a 25% to 20% drop in smoking among US adults during the past 10 years, research still shows that less than 3% of those attempting to quit do so permanently — making smoking a leading cause of premature death in the country, and, thus, resulting in major costs to employers with smoking workers.

The study proved so successful, that according to the BBC,* “GE will launch a similar scheme in 2010 for all US employees, believing it will be cost-effective in the long term. It aims to save some of the estimated $50m spent annually on extra costs for smoking employees.”

But according to The WSJ, “Smoking experts say previous studies have found little clear evidence that such financial incentives help in getting smokers to quit, although most have involved far fewer patients and much smaller incentives.”

With nearly 900 GE employees taking part in the study, it is one of the largest of its kind.

“Ric Barton, a GE lighting specialist from Cleveland, said he had been thinking about quitting before the study,” The WSJ article reads. “A smoker for four decades, the 62-year-old said finding places to light up had become increasingly difficult, and he was tired of rising cigarette prices. ‘It was icing for me to get a monetary reward for something I was already planning to do,’ Mr. Barton said.


* Post Sources:

The Wall Street Journal, “More Smokers Quit if Paid, Study Shows,” by Robert Tomsho, February 12, 2009, Page D1

BBC News, “Cash bribes ‘help smokers quit’,” February 12, 2009,

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