"Secretly, it's a competition": a qualitative study investigating what helped employees quit smoking during a workplace smoking cessation group training programme with incentives

Floor A. Van den Brand*, Lisa M. E. Dohmen, Onno C. P. Van Schayck, Gera E. Nagelhout

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Objectives Smoking cessation programmes in combination with financial incentives have shown to increase quit rates in smokers, but it is not clear which elements of this intervention help smokers to succeed in their quit attempt. The aim of this study was to explore the view of successful and unsuccessful quitters about which factors had affected their ability to quit smoking.

Design Semistructured qualitative interviews were conducted and analysed using the Framework method.

Setting Interviews were conducted in 2017 with employees from nine different Dutch companies.

Participants 24 successful and unsuccessful quitters from the intervention group of a cluster randomised controlled trial (RCT) who participated in a workplace smoking cessation group training programme in which smoking abstinence was rewarded with financial incentives.

Results Themes that emerged were the workplace setting, quitting with colleagues, motivation, family support, strategies and the financial incentives. The interviewees reported that the smoking cessation programme was appreciated in general, was convenient, lowered the threshold to sign up, stimulated peer support and competition and provided strategies to resist smoking. Personal motivation and a mind set to never smoke again were regarded as important factors for quit success. The financial incentives were not considered as a main motivator to quit smoking, which contradicts the results from the RCT. The financial incentives were considered as more attractive to smokers with a low income.

Conclusions According to participants, contributors to quitting smoking were the workplace cessation programme, personal motivation and peer support, but not the incentives. More research is needed on the contradiction between the perceived effects of financial incentives on quit success and the actual difference in quit rates.

Trial registration number NTR5657.

Original languageEnglish
Article number023917
Number of pages9
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018


  • qualitative research
  • smoking cessation
  • workplace
  • employees
  • financial incentives

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