PARIS (AFP) – Have doctors, therapy and pills had their day in helping to wean people off addiction?
Shopping vouchers and online social networks may be powerful, modern tools to help people quit smoking and lose weight, two unusual experiments suggested Wednesday.
Pregnant women promised vouchers were much likelier than non-rewarded peers to kick the smoking habit, a study in Scotland showed.
And American researchers found that people shed more kilos the more online friendships they formed with fellow weight-watchers.
Both projects sought to find innovative and cost-effective ways of tackling lifestyle behaviours that are inflicting an ever-heavier toll in lives lost and healthcare costs around the world.
In the Scottish study, published in The BMJ, researchers offered 612 pregnant smokers in Glasgow free nicotine replacement therapy and professional quitting aid.
Half the volunteers were also promised 400 pounds (534 euros or $607) in shopping vouchers.
A first voucher of 50 pounds was earned for showing up for a meeting with a professional and setting a quit date, another 50 pounds for not smoking for four weeks, another 100 pounds for 12 weeks and 200 pounds at 34-38 weeks.
Saliva or urine tests were used to confirm abstinence from cigarettes.
“Significantly more” of the voucher recipients stopped smoking – 69 out of the first group of 306, compared to 26 from the non-rewarded half, said the study – 23 percent and nine percent respectively.
“After 12 months, 15 per cent of women who were offered financial incentives remained off cigarettes compared to only four per cent” of the other group, said a statement.