Paying the price for an incentive: An exploratory study of smokers' reasons for failing to complete an incentive based smoking cessation scheme

Caroline Allan (Lead / Corresponding author), Andrew Radley, Brian Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: In 2009, one Scottish region launched a smoking cessation programme offering a weekly financial incentive of £12.50 over a 12-week period. However, a significant proportion of registered participants dropped out of the programme, some even failing to collect the financial reward they were owed. We explore reasons for disengagement and failure to re-engage within this group.

Method: Individuals (n 5 14) were interviewed in depth. Transcripts from recorded interviews formed the dataset and were analysed using the "Framework" method.

Results: Incentives appeared to introduce a potential change/reversal in the felt contractual relationship between service provider and client: the client was now the provider and being paid to quit. This led to an increased sense of obligation towards the service, and enhanced feelings of failure, guilt and shame postrelapse, and reluctance to continue engagement or re-engagement. Other service factors promoting disengagement included issues of practical delivery through location, timing, administrative burden and incentive preference.

Conclusion: The future design of incentive-based schemes should be cognisant of the potential impact on the client-professional relationship. Increasing the value of the incentive may overcome clients' antipathy towards bureaucracy and monitoring, but may simultaneously exacerbate the sense of failure and resultant stigma associated with relapse. It may be more cost-effective to reduce barriers/costs such as inconvenience, lack of privacy, timing and embarrassment of association of attendance at the pharmacy with methadone use. Alternatively, risks may be managed by reframing weekly rewards as three separate month-long stages, increasing a sense of achievement that a particular stage has been achieved before any relapse.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)212-218
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Health Services Research and Policy
Issue number4
Early online date1 Oct 2012
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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