By Rebecca Jamieson
Would £150 encourage you to give up smoking for good? NHS Tayside hopes so.
They have just launched a pilot scheme in Dundee, which gives participants from disadvantaged areas £12.50 a week if they manage to stay off cigarettes. The money is credited onto an electronic card and can be spent at Asda on fresh fruit and vegetables only – not cigarettes or alcohol. Participants can stay on the scheme for up to 12 weeks, earning them a total of £150.
Minister for Public Health, Shona Robison, was in Dundee for the launch of the Quit4u scheme. She said “The most important thing anyone can do to improve their health is to quit smoking – it’s the biggest preventable cause of ill health and premature death in Scotland. This is an innovative project and I’ll be following the results with interest to see if lessons can be learned.”
Life expectancy in Dundee is among the lowest in Britain, according to Scottish Government figures. There are thought to be around 36,000 smokers in Dundee, around half of whom live in poverty. Paul Ballard, NHS Tayside’s Deputy Director of Public Health, says deprived areas are often the worst affected.
“We know that the highest smoking rates are still in our poorest and most deprived communities. This is simply because, on a day to day basis, for them quitting smoking is not the most important thing – the most important thing is actually putting food on the table. What Quit4u does is helps and supports them to put food on the table, so they can make quitting smoking a top priority.”
But will £12.50 a week really be enough to persuade smokers to give up? Granted the first 12 weeks of the scheme are an attractive proposition – they will receive the weekly ‘reward’ money, as well as the extra cash they have saved by no longer buying cigarettes. But concerns have been expressed about the long term success of the project.
Health spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats, Ross Finnie, said “We welcome any initiative that helps people kick the habit. We do, however, have concerns over the exit strategy. Support must continue over the three months to ensure smokers who use the financial contribution as an incentive to quit do not light up when the money has dried up.”
NHS Tayside hopes up to 50% of smokers who join the scheme will be successful in their attempt to quit. At the end of the two year trial they will discover if that offer of £150 was as much of a lure as they had hoped.