How Financial Incentives Increase Smoking Cessation: A Two-Level Path Analysis

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Introduction: Financial incentives effectively increase smoking cessation rates, but it is unclear via which psychological mechanisms incentives influence quit behavior. The current study examines how receiving financial incentives for smoking cessation leads to quitting smoking and investigates several mediators and moderators of that relationship.

Aims and Methods: The study sample consisted of 604 tobacco-smoking employees from 61 companies in the Netherlands who completed a baseline and follow-up questionnaire. The current study is a secondary analysis from a cluster randomized trial where employees received smoking cessation group counseling at the workplace. Participants in the intervention group additionally received financial incentives of Euro350 in total for 12-month continuous smoking abstinence. We used a two-level path analysis to test a model that assesses the effects of financial incentives through smoking cessation program evaluation, medication use, nicotine replacement use, attitudes, self-efficacy, and social influences on quit success. We additionally tested whether an individual's reward responsiveness moderated the influence of incentives on quit success.

Results: The effect of financial incentives on quit success was mediated by a higher self-efficacy. Financial incentives were also associated with a higher use of cessation medication. A more positive program evaluation was related to higher self-efficacy, more social influence to quit, and more positive attitudes about quitting. The results did not differ significantly by individual reward responsiveness.

Conclusions: The results of the current study suggest that financial incentives may be used to increase medication use and self-efficacy for quitting smoking, which offers an indirect way to increase successful smoking cessation.

Implications (1) This is the first study investigating via which psychological pathways financial incentives for quitting smoking can lead to long-term quit success. (2) The results showed a path between financial incentives and a higher likelihood of medication use. Incentives may encourage smokers to use medication in order to increase their chance of quitting smoking and receive the reward. (3) There was a path from financial incentives to quit success via a higher self-efficacy. (4) The effects of financial incentives did not depend on individual reward responsiveness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-106
Number of pages8
JournalNicotine & Tobacco Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021



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