NC Smokers Would Accept a $7,930 Cash Incentive to Quit, Reveals Study

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There was once a time when smoking cigarettes may have been considered ‘cool’: there was the burly, Western masculine ideal of the Marlboro Man, who lit up in between lassoing cattle. And who could forget the iconic James Dean, puffing away in many a photograph and film in the ‘50s? On the silver screen, smoking cigarettes is a prominent feature: romantic scenes often inevitably end with couples enjoying a post-coital cigarette or three; busy newsrooms were once depicted in a fog of smoke; and nowadays, everyone from Brad Pitt to Scarlett Johansson has wielded a cigarette as part of their on-screen persona.

However, times have since changed… Much research has been conducted into the harmful effects of cigarette smoking, leaving many smokers in a predicament. Although the negative impacts of tobacco smoke are very much evident and it’s easy to wonder why so many smokers (an estimated 14% of American adults) continue the habit, many tobacco users find it difficult to quit, due to its addictive nature. This may be hard to believe considering cigarette smoking is still the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the US, resulting in the death of over 480,000 people each year. So, what would it take to convince smokers to ditch their habit – both for their own good, as well as the greater health and wellbeing of society? Last year, California proposed a contingency management plan to pay people to stay sober in the form of cash incentives or payments for every negative drug test over a certain period… Could a similar strategy help convince tobacco users to stay smoke-free?

OK Smokes recently surveyed 3,595 smokers to find out just how much of a cash incentive would encourage them to curb their tobacco habit.

It was found that the average smoker in North Carolina said a cash incentive of no less than $7,930 from a federal program would nudge them in the right direction and make them quit cigarettes – compared to a national average of $9,080. While this might be an eye popping figure, it is worth noting that smoking-related illness in the United States costs more than $300 billion each year – as there are 34 million smokers, this works out to approximately $8,832 per smoker.

Smokers in Vermont seem most eager to quit, with the average respondent saying they’d accept a cash incentive of $1,694 to quit. Comparatively, smokers in Hawaii had the highest cash incentive result, with the average smoker here saying $16,500 is their price.

Interactive map showing smoker statistics by state (click on ’embed’ to host infographic on your site)

Rejected by singles in numerous dating profiles, who state that they would never date a smoker; forced to take their last drag outside the airport before a long-haul flight; admonished by the family doctor, and shunned onto the wet and windy street outside the workplace, it’s reasonable to assume that smokers these days are an ostracized population.

And when an uncontrollable cigarette craving hits, making you fumble for the door with box and lighter gripped in hand, being outdoors is the first step of the game plan. However, nowadays, there are certain state and local laws that govern where you may or may not smoke cigarettes in public – although the US Congress hasn’t enacted any nationwide federal smoking bans in workplaces or public places. Uniquely, the state of Nevada has banned smoking in all public places and places of employment, however, exempts casinos, bars, strip clubs, retail tobacco stores, and restaurants that don’t allow patrons under the age of 21. In other restaurants, smoking is limited to ventilated designated areas.

This among other reasons may explain why smokers of tobacco these days feel shunned by others – the survey also found that 15% of North Carolina smokers admit they feel ostracized by society for their habit.

Nationally, this figure was 18% among women smokers and 16% among men. And broken down by age group, the results were as follows when asked if they feel ostracized by society for smoking cigarettes:

Age group                   % Who feel ostracized by society

18 – 24                        11

25 – 34                        16

35 – 44                        22

45 – 54                        23

55 – 64                        15

65+                              9

Although some smokers may feel shunned by the non-smoking population in society, the designation of specific areas where tobacco use is permitted is for the general greater good of society. The US spends over $300 billion each year on illnesses linked to smoking, which include over $225 billion towards direct medical care for adults, as well as $156 billion towards lost productivity costs. Second-hand smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals alone, of which hundreds are toxic and some, carcinogenic. Second-hand smoke is also the cause of almost 34,000 premature deaths due to heart disease among non-smokers in the US each year, as well as more than 7,300 lung cancer deaths among non-smokers in the US each year. Essentially, non-smokers who are exposed to second-hand smoke are still inhaling many of the same carcinogenic substances and toxins as cigarette smokers themselves, which emphasizes the importance of specially designated smoking zones that are further away from general public exposure.

“While paying smokers to quit may seem a controversial subject”, says Ashwinn Krishnaswamy, of OK Smokes, “doing so would eventually place less pressure on our healthcare system and save more lives, both among smokers and non-smokers alike”.

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