Quit smoking - and the state pays for your shopping

Quit smoking - and the state pays for your shopping

7th July 2008, Comments 0 comments

A Scottish city has come up with an unusual incentive to encourage people to give up the nicotine habit.

Participants in the scheme, which will go on a trial run in the autumn, will receive 12.50 pounds (16 euros) a week to give up smoking - or 150 pounds for the three-month duration of the pilot project.

The money will be credited to an electronic card which participants can redeem in their local supermarket for fresh food and groceries - except alcohol and cigarettes.

The initiative by Britain's National Health Service (NHS) is targeted at the poorest areas of the port city of 150,000. Of the 36,000 smokers of Dundee, about half live in poverty, council figures show.

Participants will receive nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) through their local pharmacy, while having to undergo weekly carbon monoxide breath tests to prove they are still smoke-free.

Participants will also receive social support from Dundee Healthy Living Initiative (DHLI) where they can access smoking cessation support, physical activities and other lifestyle advice and support.

The city council hopes that the pilot scheme, at a cost of 500,000 pounds (988,245 dollars), will eventually help 900 people to stop smoking over the next two years.

The health board aims to recruit 1,800 people for the pilot, and hopes to persuade half of all participants to quit smoking for good. If successful, the programme could be rolled out across Scotland.

"Smoking in Dundee is a difficult problem to tackle but we are hopeful that this innovative approach will encourage smokers to stop for good and therefore make a real difference to their long-term health," said Sandy Watson of the local health board.

The city says an earlier scheme aimed at making pregnant women stop smoking had been a success, and had shown that it is a "tactic that can work."

While city officials and health experts are convinced of the scheme's merits, the initiative has also drawn some criticism.

"This will just get abused by people who want to make a quick buck but really have no intention of quitting smoking," wrote James Hardaker, from Skegness, in the county of Lincolnshire, on the BBC website.

"I stopped smoking 12 years ago. Can I get the 150 pounds? With interest?", asked Oscar Lima, of Brighton, in southern Britain.

And an anonymous contributor, who confessed to being a smoker, wrote: "This is a stupid idea. If you want to stop smoking then ban the stuff. It's quite easy."

Others resented the state's "interference" with people's liberties and questioned whether "lifestyle preferences" should be forced on free citizens.

"Although current smoking cessation services are working well, because of the complexities of poverty and health we know we need to do more to tackle this," said Paul Ballard, the NHS official in charge of the project.

The idea behind it was to seek to influence a person's health before they become seriously ill.

"If this initiative means that people who would otherwise have carried on smoking and developed a heart condition or cancer decide to quit, then we will be delighted that we are helping to deliver a change in the health of those who need it most."
(DPA - expatica July 2008)

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