Should smokers be paid to quit?

By the time Tippi Hedren was seen smoking in the movie "The Birds," she'd already been smoking for 12 years. In 1951, she was even offered a well-paying job in a smoking commercial.

"I learned specifically for that purpose. Then I was smoking two packs a day," said Hedren.

American Lung Association's free online smoking cessation program

At the time Hedren says nobody knew how harmful smoking was. But with the damaging health information we have today, could a smoker be persuaded to quit if they were paid for it?

"I could use the extra couple of bucks. I'd save money not buying them and I'd get a couple of extra bucks for quitting so that would be great," said smoker, Andre Mehr.

A study in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests money might lead to better cessation success. Nine-hundred smokers at one corporation were told about the benefits of quitting. Half were paid to go to a quit smoking program, then promised $250 if they quit for six months and another $400 if they stopped smoking a whole year.

In the paid group, 9 percent quit for the year compared to 4 percent in the non-paid group. Experts say a financial incentive might be beneficial for employers.

"We find that a smoking cessation program will save employers $3,500 over the span of a year," said Steve Gallegos, American Lung Association.

A financial incentive to quit smoking might help some. But what about the other employees who don't smoke. They don't get paid anything extra for being productive workers who don't smoke.

"What do they get out of it? It wouldn't be fair," said Gallegos.

Gallegos says money may not be the best incentive. Studies show most successful quitters stopped not because of themselves, but at the urging of a loved one.

On the set of the movie "Marni," Hedren says it was her daughter Melanie who convinced her to stop.

"She said, 'Mommy you could become very, very sick and you could even die.' I put the cigarette out and I never had another one," said Hedren.

The American Lung Association offers on-site cessations programs. Counselors are available right at the workplace. Gallegos says having someone to be accountable to just like a personal trainer seems to be the most successful way to quit.



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