For many smokers, that New Year's resolution to quit has already gone up in smoke, but a new University of Florida study has found a valuable incentive that might convince even the hard core smokers to give it up.
Their study began six nmnths ago, and early results show that shopping may be powerful enough to compete with a nicotine addiction. Heavy smokers in the study take regular home breath tests by computer that show whether they're staying clean, or even how much less they've smoked this week compared to last week.
The monitor registers carbon dioxide in the lungs, and smokers get increasing dollar amounts the more they refrain from lighting up. So, what's to keep them from cheating?
The smokers send a video clip along with the home breath test, and if the results show less smoke in the system, they get immediate feedback by computer, in the form of vouchers to purchase goods or services over the internet.
"The system is virtually cheat-proof. So, we know it's the person, the smoker giving the sample as opposed to somebody else, so it allows us to get an objective measure of smoking status and that's a big step forward," says Dr. Jesse Dallery, psychologist.
Researchers believe a voucher system like this could work in the real world, that employers may be able to offer shopping incentives for smokers to quit, or maybe smokers could even put aside their own money that they could earn back as they prove each week they're not lighting up.
University of Florida researchers say it's just been six months, but they are already seeing this motivate heavy smokers to quit or cut back dramatically.