$500 says you can’t quit smoking. Do we have a bet? According to the New England Journal of Medicine, a wager is the most effective way to get people to stop smoking.

We hate losing money. Dr. Scott Halpern, Perelman School of Medicine at UPenn, summed up the study’s results:

“It leveraged people’s natural aversion to losing money.”

Wagering to Quit Smoking

Researchers enlisted 2,000+ CVS Caremark employees, friends and family to compare five techniques to quit smoking. It found the reward system the most effective tool in getting a person to stop smoking.

Having a reward out there was the incentive, but what makes the carrot effective? A stick. Participants who had skin in the game were more likely to quit smoking.

The employees in the study who put in an up-front deposit with the risk of losing it were twice as likely to quit over a simple cash reward system.

What about other methods like non-smoking nicotine replacements? The wager system was five-times more successful.

Here’s how researchers structured the five groups:

Group one received the traditional care including information about quitting smoking and the free smoking-cessation aids.

Two groups had a simple cash reward of $800, based on individual or group performance in the study.

The last two groups had participants making a $150 deposit. Based on individual or group performance, the study participant received $650 plus their deposit back.

In the groups offering the $800 reward, ninety percent jumped at the chance. The pools requiring a deposit? Only 14 percent paid the $150. But, the results were staggering. While only 14 percent paid in, 52 percent had kicked the habit at the six-month mark.

700 Good Reasons

CVS was impressed with the results and is launching its 700 Good Reasons initiative to help its employees and their family members quit smoking.

Realizing the $150 deposit was too high, the company is asking employees and their family members to throw in $50. If they have kicked the habit at the six-month mark, the $50 is returned along with $200. At twelve months, the employee gets an additional $500.

Is a wager to quit smoking a linchpin in kicking tobacco use? If you can get people to buy in, yes.

We hate losing money more than we like winning it.

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