Want to quit smoking? Find somebody to pay you

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A team of University of Pennsylvania researchers has found that direct financial incentives to quit smoking help people kick the habit.

The study followed 878 General Electric employees, half of whom were offered incentives of as much as $750 for their smoking cessation efforts. The money was doled out at certain benchmarks of abstinence to encourage long-term results.

The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) reports that "About 14.7% of the group offered financial incentives said they had stopped smoking within the first year of the study, compared with 5% of the other group. At the time of their last interview for the 18-month study, 9.4% of the paid group was still abstaining compared with 3.6% of those who got no money."

How can you make this work for yourself? If you're lucky, you have an employer who offers some sort of payment to people who quit smoking. Otherwise, you'll have to get creative. Why not find a trusted friend and hand him $500 to be returned to you if and only if you manage to not smoke for a year. Draconian, maybe. But do you want to quit or don't you?

Need to up the ante? Make a deal that if you don't hold up your end of the bargain, the $500 will be donated to a political party or charitable organization that stands for everything you oppose. Now that's some motivation!
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