A bribe isn’t the way to quit smoking

If you’re doing something that’s bad for you – it’s far more helpful to look at the cause in order to break the habit

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Pass the ashtray, there’s a dear. Researchers at Newcastle University have found that smokers in deprived areas who were offered £12.50 a week to quit smoking had a three-month quit rate of more than 30 per cent. Apparently, that’s more than double the national average. Impressive, but will it last? Possibly not. Those researchers may find, should they revisit their guinea pigs in a year, that said guinea pigs are puffing away again, with that £12.50 a week gone up in smoke.

The researchers expressed surprise at how effective a cash incentive was. Really? I don’t think you need a PhD to understand that one. Of course money is an effective incentive for people in severe need of cash. If you’ve got scant money coming in from elsewhere, the prospect of an extra tenner or so a week in exchange for laying off the fags would be a no-brainer. But once the constant flow of money disappears, where’s the incentive to ignore the craving?

This approach to smoking  cessation is inside-out because it involves treating a symptom rather than the cause.

Symptom: you’re a bit skint, smoking’s expensive, have some cash. Cause: why do you even want to smoke in the first place? If you can answer the second question you’re more likely to delete the fags forever.

If you’re doing something that’s bad for you – whether that’s smoking, overeating or drinking too much – it’s far more helpful to look at the cause in order to break the habit.

I’m sure that most of the people who stop smoking for a cash prize will go back to the habit at some point because they won’t have stopped with the right mindset, which is changing from within. I’m aware that I sound a bit like Yoda. But he doesn’t smoke, does he?

Merely throwing money at the problem won’t work. Smokers need to understand their habits and change because they want to. The fact that they’ll save far more than £12.50 a week once they stop  should be the cherry on the cake.

By the way – I used to smoke and I tried to give up twice before it finally worked.

It’s very difficult but it can be done. If you’re considering it, do it. I can’t give you £12.50 a week but you will get your health back.

Louise Scodie is a presenter for London Live

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