CARE offers smokers $500 to quit

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Photo by Creative Commons.

New Haven citizens who pledge not to smoke for a month may receive $500 from a new citywide campaign.

The Yale School of Public Health’s Community Alliance for Research and Engagement (CARE) is organizing this year’s Quit and Win campaign ­— an anti-smoking program in which selected participants are awarded a prize for successfully quitting smoking. In its second year, the contest began Dec. 19 and will end the first week in February.

“Although Quit and Win runs only for a month, the ultimate goal of the program is to make people stop smoking completely,” Naa Sackey, CARE neighborhood program assistant, said. “We hope that the financial incentive and health information provides them with self-empowerment and awareness, to motivate them to extend the time frame [of quitting] themselves.”

In order to qualify for the money, residents who smoke and are older than 18 pledged to quit smoking for the month of January by placing their personal information in one of the 40 boxes scattered in public locations throughout the city, including Fair Haven Health Center, Stop & Shop and Elm City Liquor. The entry period for the contest was from Dec. 19 to Jan. 1. At the end of this period, program representatives collected the boxes and entered the participants in a raffle. In the first week of February, three winners will be chosen to receive $500 cash prizes. They are given breath tests to verify their commitment to the program.

Based on the success of the 2010 Quit and Win, organizers decided to run the program again, Sackey said. This time it will run in January instead of May, to take advantage of people’s New Year’s resolutions, she added. Organizers expect more than 125 participants this year.

Alongside their pledge, participants receive a brochure with information on methods to stop smoking, such as the CT Quit Line number and information on how much money smokers could be saving by quitting their habit, Sackey said.

Thirty-one percent of New Haven residents, CARE Public Alley Ileana Garcia SPH ’12 said, are currently daily smokers — much higher than the national rates. She added that 12 percent of these smokers are “ready to quit.”

This is not the first antismoking program to use monetary incentives. Stephanie O’Maller, professor of psychiatry and director of the Division of Substance Abuse Research at the School of Medicine, also developed a campaign similar to Quit and Win through the Tobacco Research Center at Yale.

CARE, however, has been more “in the community,” CARE Director Jeannette Ickovics said, citing the group’s boxes in businesses and neighborhoods.”

Last September, the state received a $10 million grant over five years to pay Medicaid-eligible smokers small amounts when they attend antismoking sessions and agree to receive other counseling. The program will be launched this February.

“When people think about quitting smoking, some of the negative consequences are on the way,” O’Malley said. “But if you want to quit and have some reward that overrides the negatives, you will quit.”

Sackey added that, although eligible, the Yale community is not specifically targeted in this program. The Quit and Win pledge box closest to campus is at the Stop & Shop on Whalley Avenue.

Quit and Win is one of many programs organized by CARE, an organization led by School of Public Health students committed to translate their research into active change in the city, according to their website. Other CARE initiatives include conducting a survey of New Haven residents’ health practices.

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