CVS Tested Incentive Programs to See Which Worked Best to Get Employees to Kick the Smoking Habit

The effects of smoking cessation not only benefit the former smoker, but in many cases, there are benefits to their employer as well. While the health of the newly reformed non-smoker greatly improves, employers who provide health insurance benefits could enjoy savings of approximately $4,000 to $6,000 in premiums per year.

The pharmacy giant CVS picked up on this revelation and enlisted a group of employee volunteers to take part in an incentive-based cessation program. The idea of financial rewards and penalties for kicking the habit or not had results that weren’t anticipated.

Three groups of volunteer programs were offered. One provided free tools such as Nicorette gum to help them quit, and one described as the “deposit program” required smokers to invest a $150 deposit that would be forfeited if they failed, or returned, along with a $650 bonus if they succeeded. NewsVine users wrote that the third “reward program group required no deposit, but an $800 reward would be issued once the smoker quit for a year. Understandably, most people presented with the “deposit program” opted out, not wanting to risk their money, while the “reward program” saw many more takers.

The results of the experiment, which was led by Dr. Scott Halpern from the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, showed that the most successful quitters were from the group requiring the initial deposit, being twice as effective as the reward only group and five times more successful than the group receiving free cessation tools.

There are an estimated 40 million smokers still today in the U.S. alone, and convincing them to quit has proven to be difficult. However, this study shows that losing money if you fail to quit seems to have been the best motivator.

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