Shopping vouchers could help one in five pregnant women quit smoking

Financial incentives could help one in five women quit smoking during pregnancy, according to new research published in the journal Addiction. The study, led by researchers at the Behaviour and Health Research Unit (BHRU), University of Cambridge and Centre for the Study of Incentives in Health (CSI Health), King’s College London, found that only a small number of women ‘gamed’ the system to receive the incentives whilst continuing to smoke.

Of the women who enrolled into the scheme, 143 received at least one voucher, suggesting that they had attempted to quit. One in five of the women (48 women) had managed to quit by the time of delivery. 25 women (10%) were still not smoking six months after the birth of their child. This compared to the previous year, when only a very small number of women (less than 1%) were recorded as having stopped smoking. In all cases, women from areas of highest deprivation were the least likely to succeed in quitting. Urinary or salivary tests suggested that ten women (4%) had smoked cigarettes whilst claiming vouchers.

Professor Theresa Marteau who led the study said: “We all know of the dangers of smoking, particularly during pregnancy, but quitting can be extremely difficult. Offering financial incentives clearly works for some women – with very few ‘gaming’ the system and a significant number stopping smoking at least for the duration of their pregnancy.”

Status: Published. Ierfino, Mantzari, Hirst, Jones, Aveyard, Marteau. Financial incentives for smoking cessation in pregnancy: a single-arm intervention study assessing cessation and gaming. Access full text