Incentivized smoking cessation in the workplace could smoke habit


Comradery gets things done.

Indeed, individual rigor certainly has its own merits — it’s easier to send and respond to your own emails than break the process down into fragments to allow another player — but some tasks are more effectively tackled in teams.

Baseball? You’ll want some base-fellows for that. Basketball? You’ll want multiple people looking forward and on point to get you to the hoop. Weight loss? It seems you’ll want some coworkers with the same mindset — and maybe a couple checks — to facilitate such a lifestyle change if you chose to make it.

As one report in the Annals of Internal Medicine notes, group-based incentive programs could make for a fitter nation — providing monetary rewards to teams of employees looking to lose weight as a personal prerogative or at a physician’s/nutritionist’s request.   

According to an editorial on the study (reported on by PhysBizTech here): “The use of incentive-based programs for weight loss is growing,” wrote Jason Riis, PhD, and colleagues. “This growth is likely to accelerate in the coming years due to a provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which allows employers to use a greater proportion of insurance premiums for this purpose. The effectiveness of the programs, at least in the short term, is consistent with insights from psychology and behavioral economics: Proximal and tangible rewards (such as monthly monetary payments) are more motivating than distant and tangible rewards (such as the downstream health benefits of weight loss).”

Workplace wellness programs that focus on weight loss, as seen above, are gaining popularity. From walking groups to healthy lunch gatherings, the efforts for fitness on the job seem fairly effective, solid and widespread. So why not shift such an approach over to another of healthcare’s major aims — smoking cessation?

Workplace smoking cessations programs, incentivized monetarily and with worker support/companionship, could make some serious ground on lessening tobacco use.

It’s clear that workplace bonding offers a different breed of companionship — not only are employees together constantly, but they are compensated already to work in a team. It’s more effective, reassurance-wise, than acquaintanceship, and more often than not, breaks into the realm of friendship. As such, it’s easy to gather why alongside monetary gains, people are more motivated to commit to a lifestyle challenge with coworkers than they would be otherwise. It helps with weight loss, why not with smoking?

Although there are specific portions within the ACA legislation supporting employer provisions on behalf of weight loss, with enough interest, funds could certainly be allocated to incentivizing more smoking cessation programs in-house as well. And as was the case with weight loss initiatives, with physician support, a smoking cessation program in the office could become significant across the nation in a short amount of time.

Many workplaces offer helplines and, as the CDC alludes, have smoking policies in place, but employee partners and monetary incentives (possibly to fund physician-supported patches or other cessation aides) may be more beneficial to workers even after hours, and may provide longer-lasting effects than a standard 8-hour ban would.  

It’s worth considering from the sidelines, at least.