Scottish smokers offered £160 incentive to quit

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Smokers across Scotland are being handed shopping vouchers in a publicly funded attempt to help them ditch the habit.

In Lanarkshire, about half of smokers living in the poorest parts of the area ditched cigarettes after being offered a financial incentive.

Pregnant women have been targeted in one voucher scheme. Photograph: Getty

Pregnant women have been targeted in one voucher scheme. Photograph: Getty

From next month, a new initiative in Greater Glasgow and Clyde will see pregnant smokers paid up to £160 to ditch cigarettes, after a successful pilot scheme.

A similar project in Tayside will see smokers rewarded for quitting.

Medical experts have welcomed the schemes as a “cost effective” way to improve the health of patients. But opposition politicians warn many taxpayers will be “sceptical” about this approach, despite the early results being positive.

In NHS Lanarkshire, employees at a number of public and private sector organisations have been offered up to £20 in shopping vouchers if they can prove they are cigarette free for 12 weeks.

The scheme, which has been running since August last year, has shown early promise, with 71 per cent of participants saying the vouchers were an incentive to stop smoking. For patients in the most deprived areas, there was a quit rate after 12 weeks of 50 per cent.

From next month, health bosses at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde will hand pregnant women up to £160 in vouchers in instalments for every week the mothers-to-be go smoke free.

Sheila Duffy, chief executive of health charity ASH Scotland, said incentive schemes have a proven worth. She added: “It’s an innovative approach and seems to be bringing positive results. Voucher schemes are cost-effective when you consider the significant financial implications of tobacco use for the NHS and wider society.”

In Scottish prisons, inmates are also rewarded for quitting smoking.

A spokesman from NHS Lanarkshire said incentive schemes offered a “wide range of benefits” for patients.

He said: “The risks of smoking during pregnancy are serious, from premature delivery to increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirth or sudden infant death.”

Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary Miles Briggs said: “There is evidence to suggest this tactic can be effective... but we can’t get away from the fact a vast number of people will be sceptical.”

A spokeswoman for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said: “Research carried out in Greater Glasgow and Clyde showed that pregnant women are more likely to use stop smoking services and successfully give up when incentives like shopping vouchers are offered, in conjunction with stop smoking support.”