The study, led by researchers at the University of Cambridge and King's College London, found that only a small number of women 'gamed' the system to receive the incentives while continuing to smoke.
Researchers carried out a study of women attending antenatal clinics at a hospital in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, an area of high deprivation and 239 pregnant women enrolled into the financial incentives scheme.
At each visit to the antenatal clinic, the women were asked if they had smoked since the last visit and were given a carbon monoxide breath test (which showed positive if the individual had smoked in the preceding few hours).
If they had not smoked, they were given a shopping voucher - the first voucher was worth 8 pounds and the value increased by 1 pound for each visit up, providing a potential maximum of 752 pounds in vouchers.
Testing positive for smoking resulted in the incentive being withheld at that visit and the value being reset to 8 pounds for the next visit; following two consecutive test results indicating no smoking, the incentive was re-set to the highest point attained prior to the lapse.

Based on modeling of other interventions for smoking cessation in pregnancy, they argue it is most likely that these schemes would fall within the acceptable range of cost effectiveness set by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in UK.
The study is published in the journal Addiction.

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