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CVS to offer employees incentives to quit smoking

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New smoking cessation program set to roll out next month

WOONSOCKET, R.I. — Next month, CVS Health plans to launch an employee smoking cessation program that reflects the findings of new research and continues the company’s efforts to reduce tobacco use.

CVS smoking cessation store display

Last September, CVS phased out tobacco products in all CVS/pharmacy stores and launched the Start to Stop smoking cessation program for customers.

According to a study by the CVS Health Research Institute and researchers from the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, employer-sponsored smoking cessation programs that offer financial incentives show higher rates of getting smokers to quit and stay off tobacco. The findings were published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“More than 50 years after the release of the first Surgeon General’s report on the harmful effects of tobacco, smoking still remains the leading cause of preventable illness and death in the U.S. While as a society, we have made significant strides in curbing rates of smoking, there is still a clear opportunity to make an even greater impact,” study co-author Troyen Brennan, executive vice president and chief medical officer at CVS Health, said in a statement. “As we think about novel approaches to smoking cessation, these findings provide evidence that financial incentives can be a powerful motivator.”

In June, CVS Health is slated to roll out “700 Good Reasons,” a smoking cessation program for employees and their dependents who use tobacco of any kind. The program was developed based on key learnings from the CVS Health Research Institute-Perelman School of Medicine study in order to both encourage participation and foster sustained abstinence from tobacco use, CVS noted.

Program participants are required to pay a $50 deposit and can earn up to $700, as well as a refund of their full deposit, if they commit to quit smoking and are successful. The financial incentives will be paid to participating employees who test tobacco-free at six months and 12 months. Those enrolled in the program also will be encouraged to participate in the CVS/minuteclinic Start to Stop smoking cessation program launched last September, which offers a personalized quit plan, nicotine replacement therapy and support to help stay on track. Also in September, CVS Health ended sales of tobacco products in all of its CVS/pharmacy stores.

“Last year, we made a commitment as a company to be tobacco-free as we strive to fulfill our purpose of helping people on their path to better health, and that includes our colleagues,” stated Lisa Bisaccia, executive vice president and chief human resources officer at CVS Health. “The research we conducted with the University of Pennsylvania provided us with important information about what can motivate and help our colleagues stop smoking. We are excited to offer this innovative program to our colleagues who want to quit smoking as we foster a healthy workplace and workforce.”

In the study, researchers randomly assigned about 2,500 CVS Health employees and their family and friends to one of four incentive-based smoking cessation programs or to usual care, which consisted of informational resources and free access to a behavioral-modification program and nicotine replacement therapy. Across all of the incentive-based programs, participants were eligible for up to $800 for successfully quitting smoking, but the programs differed on how incentives were accrued and disbursed. Two of the programs required participants to pay an upfront deposit of $150, which was reimbursed if participants successfully quit smoking.

Overall, study participants who enrolled in any of the four incentive-based programs were nearly three times more likely to quit smoking than those who received usual care alone. In addition, although participants assigned to the groups requiring an upfront deposit were more likely to decline participation than those in the pure incentive-based programs, deposit programs led to nearly twice the rate of abstinence from smoking at six months among people who would have accepted either type of program.

“This study is one of the first to compare incentive programs that first require deposits and programs that entail pure rewards to promote healthy behaviors,” explained study lead author Scott Halpern, assistant professor of medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine. “The results are fully consistent with the behavioral theory that people are typically more motivated to avoid losses than to seek gains. Although the need to make monetary deposits deters some people from participating, deposit-requiring incentive programs can produce robust, long-term results in helping to change complex health behaviors.”

The CVS Health Research Institute-Perelman School of Medicine study also was supported by grants from the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute on Aging.


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