Smoking Cessation Incentive Program Coming Soon to CVS

May 18, 2015
Meghan Ross, Associate Editor

Keeping its commitment to tobacco cessation efforts, CVS Health is set to launch an incentive program to help its employees to stop smoking.

Keeping its commitment to tobacco cessation efforts, CVS Health is set to launch an incentive program to help its employees to stop smoking.

“Last year, we made a commitment as a company to be tobacco-free as we strive to fulfill our purpose of helping people on their path to better health and that includes our colleagues,” said CVS executive vice president and chief human resources officer Lisa Bisaccia in a press release. “…We are excited to offer this innovative program to our colleagues who want to quit smoking as we foster a healthy workplace and workforce.”

In the chain’s “700 Good Reasons” campaign, participating employees will have the potential to earn $700, plus a full refund of their required $50 deposit, if they test tobacco-free at 6 and 12 months.

This unique cessation program was inspired by the results of a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine that found financial incentives trumped free behavioral counseling and nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) in motivating CVS employees to stop smoking.

In the study, participants chose a target quit date between 1 and 90 days after they enrolled, and all of them were offered “usual care” in the form of cessation guides and information. Additionally, 41% of study subjects received free access to a behavioral modification program and NRT.

The 2538 participants were divided into 5 groups: 468 received only usual care, while 498 were assigned to receive individual rewards, 519 to receive collaborative rewards, 471 to competitive deposits, and 582 to individual deposits.

Those in the individual incentive groups could receive $200 if they were tobacco-free after 14 days, 30 days, and 6 months following their target quit dates. Also on the table was a $200 bonus at the 6-month mark.

Participants in the collaborative group saw increasing payments if their cohort of 6 smokers continued to avoid tobacco over the 6-month time period. A chat room was available to these subjects as a way of encouraging team spirit.

The competitive group required a deposit of $150 from each of the 6 members of the cohort, and a $450 matching reward was available to each. This $3600 total could be redistributed to members who still quit at each of the check-ins, so the participants were competing for other members’ deposits and matching funds.

Those in the individual deposit group had to pay $150 upfront for a deposit and could receive subsequent matching funds as time went on.

All participants in the 4 different financial incentive groups, totaling 2070 people, had the potential to receive $800.

The results showed the 4 intervention groups had greater success in smoking cessation, with a success rate around 9% to 16%, compared with the usual care group’s 6% success rate.

The participants who were required to make a deposit were less likely to accept the assignment—only 14% did so compared with the 90% who accepted the other reward-based programs. In addition, the reward-based incentive groups had a 15.7% success rate at the 6-month mark, compared with 10.2% of the deposit-based incentive groups.

Nevertheless, the researchers said the deposit-based groups might have had the upper hand.

“[A]nalyses that account for the different acceptance rates of the interventions showed that deposit-based incentives were substantially more efficacious than reward-based incentives among people who would have accepted either,” they stated.

The researchers suggested future smoking cessation programs should require smaller deposits than $150. CVS will require participants in its incentive program to deposit only $50.

“Because employing a smoker is estimated to cost $5816 more each year than employing a nonsmoker, even an $800 payment borne entirely by employers and paid only to those who quit would be highly cost-saving,” the study authors concluded.

CVS banned tobacco products from all of its retail locations in September 2014.