The power of incentives in the fight against smoking is being tested in the Tasmanian community, through a new trial on the East Coast.
Designed by University of Tasmania researcher 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 will be run by three community pharmacies in the coastal towns, who will be 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.
Dr Frandsen said the community focus of this trial was 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.
“It is really hard to test why incentives work when you are bringing someone into a laboratory setting because they are usually really motivated to come into a foreign setting and you can’t be sure if the sitting down face-to face with someone is what is motivating them.”
“This trial is using what is already available and really testing whether incentives work in a participant’s regular community setting.”
Dr Frandsen said the trial also provided the added motivation of people in smaller communities knowing each other.
“The community base also provides the setting for a ‘social contract’ between participants and the businesses involved,” she said.
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, said the concept of incentives to give up smoking was a powerful one with strong possibilities for success.
It is hoped this latest research, which Dr Frandsen will assess and publish, may eventually provide the impetus for a successful tool in the fight against smoking related illnesses on a national scale.
“Some people may look at it as rewarding people for doing the wrong thing, but that is a false perception if you consider the billions that is spent on healthcare each year for smoking related illnesses,” Dr Frandsen said.
“Providing incentives is dealing with the problem, rather than waiting to act on the health repercussions later, often when it’s too late.”
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.
Registration and more information is available through the pharmacies in the three towns.
The project is funded by a Tasmanian Government Healthy Tasmania Community Innovations Grant.