Incentives to quit smoking community trial in Tasmania

The power of incentives in the fight against smoking is being tested in the Tasmanian community through a new trial officially launched on the state’s east coast in July.

Designed by University of Tasmania researcher Dr Mai Frandsen, the five-month trial based in Swansea, Triabunna and Bicheno has a strong community focus, offering vouchers with local businesses as an incentive for participants to stop smoking.

The trial is being run by three community pharmacies in the coastal towns with many locals already taking up the challenge.

“The program has presented the opportunity for many contemplating quitting smoking to take the next step,” Swansea pharmacist Suzanne Hickey said.

“At the pharmacy we work with participants however they wish, be it information, product resources or just a chat.

“A weekly visit and low carbon-monoxide reading results in a $50 voucher redeemable at various businesses, and that incentive has kept some very focused on succeeding week to week.”

Pharmacists in each of the three towns have been responsible for recruiting community members for the trial, as well as providing weekly testing with a carbon-monoxide monitor for participants and incentive vouchers when they register as smoke free for up to three-months.

Vouchers can be used only in local businesses.

Dr Frandsen says the community focus of this trial is a first.

“A trial on incentives for smoking cessation with a broad community sample like this has not been seen before, and certainly not one that has been led by communities,” she said.

“The community base also provides the setting for a ‘social contract’ between participants and the businesses involved.”

The project is a partnership between the University of Tasmania, the Drug Education Network, the Royal Flying Doctor Service and Cancer Council Tasmania.

Dr Frandsen, who has also published research on the provision of incentives for pregnant mothers, says the concept of incentives to give up smoking is a powerful one with strong possibilities for success.

“Providing incentives is dealing with the problem, rather than waiting to act on the health repercussions later, often when it’s too late,” she said.

Anyone interested in being part of the trial needs to be a smoker who is a Swansea, Bicheno or Triabunna resident and 18 years or older.

The project is funded by a Tasmanian government Healthy Tasmania Community Innovations Grant.