Penn work on incentives to get smokers to quit wins award

Research led by Kevin Volpp of the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics at the University Pennsylvania showed that financial incentives can help people quit smoking. The Penn team’s work with General Electric to implement a smoking cessation program using financial incentives was recognized today with an award from BMJ Group, the publisher of prominent British medical journals.

In February 2009, Volpp and his team published a study in the New England Journal of Medicine of 878 smokers that showed the 436 participants who took part in smoking cessation programs were significantly more likely to quit than the 442 people who participated in the same programs but did not get financial incentives. The participants were paid $100 for joining a smoking cessation program, $250 more if they quit within six months, and $400 more if they stayed smoke-free for another six months.

Kevin Volpp

General Electric and the Leonard Davis Institute have implemented the financial incentive approach to quit smoking for the company's employees. For implementing that program for all 152,000 GE workers in the US, the researchers won the Getting Research into Practice, or GRiP award, from BMJ.

“In health care settings people have the same foibles and lapses as they do in other parts of their everyday lives,” Volpp said in a statement. “By understanding these, sometimes we can help overcome them and help people do things they want to do but have difficulty doing, like lose weight, exercise more, and quit smoking.”