Pregnant women in Britain who smoke are being offer financial rewards for quitting. This has raised a debate to determine whether this is something that should happen. There are questions over how far this will go, and whether others will be encouraged to quit other legal substances for financial rewards.
According to the public state report, Expectant mothers in the UK could get up to £400 (about $600) in shopping vouchers. They will have to prove that they have quit the legal but dangerous substance, and is a way to help protect unborn babies. Researchers believe that financial rewards could get twice as many women to quit smoking.
The National Health Service (NHS) in Britain is struggling financially. Smoking-related problems are a major drain on the money, researchers stated. In Scotland alone a quarter of all pregnant women smoke, increasing the risks of infant death, miscarriage and stillbirths. Pregnant smokers cost the NHS from $12 million to $97 million each year. There is then the $18 million to $36 million spent on treating babies with issues due to the tobacco-related issues.
English and Scottish researchers screened woman treated in Greater Glasgow and Clyde. All expectant mothers who had a cigarette within the week previous to the screening were tested for carbon monoxide levels on their breath. Those who have seven parts per million were classed as current smokers, and were offered cessation services.
The researchers found that the financial rewards offered to smoking pregnant women showed the most success for getting them to quit. The women were twice as likely to quit compared to those who were offered the face-to-face sessions and weekly phone calls alone. The women who remained smoke-free for 12 weeks were given shopping vouchers for their efforts.
There is the question of the success of this afterwards. Women could go through the 12 weeks of being smoke-free just for the sake of the money. However, researchers say that those who quit for three months were more likely to remain smoke-free. There were also other requirements, including counseling sessions and passing breath tests.
Out of the 303 women in the control group, only 26 remained smoke-free when they were between 34 and 38 weeks pregnant. Out of the 306 who were offered the financial incentive, 69 had still quit smoking between the same weeks in their pregnancies. Researchers calculated that those given the monetary awards were 2.63 times more likely to fully quit.
The question is whether these financial rewards will be given for other dangerous habits. Policymakers have argued for many years that people are drawn to financial rewards. They may change their social behavior, especially when economic times are still tough. Householders may even recycle more if there was the possibility of council tax being reduced.
For now, there is still the debate over whether it is ethical to offer pregnant women financial rewards for not smoking. There are many people who believe that women should quit just for the sake of their unborn children. However, researchers believe that the financial rewards may be the best way to encourage pregnant women to quit smoking for good.