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Researcher finds unique ways to quit smoking


Steve Spinks
19 December 2011
Southern Cross University First Class Honours student Jamie Hetherington believes a multi-faceted approach could help smokers quit their deadly habit.

As part of his Honours thesis, Mr Hetherington set up a study to look at the effects of two different interventions on smoking cessation. The interventions targeted the financial and health motivations behind why smokers attempt to quit. Twenty-two participants took part.

The health feedback group underwent a set of physiological tests at the beginning of the study and then at week six and week 12 to measure the impact quitting had on their health. According to Mr Hetherington’s findings, this group had the greatest number of smokers (three) who quit during the study.

“I think the individual feedback that the participants received was very important. The testing I did was very simple and routine health checks that any health professional, such as an exercise physiologist could do,” he said.

“The concept behind this intervention has the potential to hold great promise for future smoking cessation interventions, as the reason that most people attempt to quit is that their habit/addiction is affecting their health and fitness.”

The financial incentive group was asked to contribute one dollar for every day they did not smoke. At the end of the 12 week study they had the option of donating the money to a charity or a not-for-profit organisation. However, if they relapsed and began smoking again they forfeited their money. Two people quit smoking by this method. The money was donated to the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter and Bernardo’s Australia, each charity ended up with $150.

“There have been financial incentive studies before but they focused on only rewarding the participants if they stopped smoking,” Mr Hetherington said.

“The literature found that just rewarding people with money or other incentives to stop smoking didn’t really work because as soon as the rewards stopped the majority of participants would relapse.

“The financial incentive method utilised in this study really focused on changing the whole concept of using incentives for smoking cessation. I think this could really develop into something like Shave for a Cure, where smokers band together to quit and support a charity. The smokers still saved money even though they were donating a small amount of cash because they weren’t smoking.”

While Mr Hetherington’s study has highlighted some innovative ways that could help people quit smoking he said his findings were far from conclusive.

“My study was too small to be conclusive but future research could address many of the areas that I’ve looked in to,” he said.

“Nicotine addiction is a very complicated problem so having a holistic and variety of strategies that could be used is something that future research re needs to address.”

Photo: Jamie Hetherington