News Release

November 11, 2008

Contact: Carolyn Pennington, 860-679-4864

Can Rewards Help Smokers Kick the Habit?

Great American Smokeout Is November 20

FARMINGTON, CONN. – As we approach the annual Great American Smokeout on Nov. 20, a research team at the University of Connecticut Health Center is examining whether adding rewards to a treatment program will help people give up smoking for good. Sheila Alessi, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry, and her collaborators are studying whether an incentive-based behavioral intervention known as contingency management (CM) can improve quit rates among patients using varenicline, an approved medication for smoking cessation.

Contingency management is a type of treatment in which patients receive incentives or prizes for “good” behavior --- in this case, that good behavior is not smoking. “If a behavioral therapy such as contingency management can improve early response to varenicline, more patients may stop smoking, which should be associated with long-term abstinence and health benefits,” says Alessi.

Study participants must be 18 or older and will be divided into two groups. One group will receive brief smoking cessation counseling with varenicline. The second group will receive the same brief counseling and varenicline plus the chance to win prizes for the first four weeks if their breath and urine samples test negative for cigarette smoking. The prize bowl contains about 500 cards and half of those are winning cards, entitling the drawer to prizes worth $1, $20 and $100. The other half says “Good Job” or “Have a Nice Day” and result in no prize.

 Anyone interested in participating in the smoking cessation study can call 860-299-5607.

Tobacco use is the single most avoidable cause of death in our society. Smoking kills more than 5,000 in Connecticut every year, yet more than 25 percent of the state’s population continues to smoke. Nearly 70 percent of smokers want to quit, but each year, fewer than 3 percent of them are successful.

The American Cancer Society holds the Great American Smokeout® every year on the third Thursday in November. The purpose of the event is to set aside a day to help smokers quit smoking, for at least one day, with the hope that they will quit completely.

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