New Cochrane Review

Posted 22nd March 2019 by Dave Cross
A new Cochrane Review has been published on 'Competitions for smoking cessation'. It introduces the possibility of motivating smoking quit attempts by involving individuals or groups having the opportunity to win a prize, either with a direct reward or entry into a raffle or lottery. It finds that such practices do not increase the rates of smoking cessation.

The review states: “In competitions designed to help people to quit smoking, participants are encouraged to quit while also having the chance to win a reward if they are successful in doing so. Some contests allow groups of smokers to compete against each other directly, with the group in which the most smokers quit winning a prize.”

“Alternatively, a person who quits smoking might be entered into a lottery to win a prize, such as cash payments, vouchers, salary bonuses, promotional items (tshirts, pens or bags), holidays, or luxury goods (cars or boats). A particular type of stop smoking competition called the ‘Quit & Win' contest took place internationally until 2006.”

This piece of work merged two previous studies. The team also searched for more other relevant studies and found 20 reports covering more than 11,000 participants.

“In five of these studies, groups of smokers recruited from workplaces competed directly against each other. In the other 15 studies, successful quitters were entered into prize draws.”

The report finds: “None of the studies in which groups of smokers competed against each other directly found that more people quit than in similar groups of smokers who were not entered into a competition. Combining the results of randomized controlled trials of lotterytype competitions, which provide the best evidence, did not show evidence that competitions increase rates of quitting smoking.”

“Three Quit & Win contests did find that people who were in the contest had higher quit rates than people in a comparison community, who did not take part. However, these studies were of low quality and appeared to have very little effect on the overall smoking rates in the community, as fewer than one in 500 smokers appeared to quit because of the Quit & Win contest.”

The authors concluded: “At present, it is impossible to draw any firm conclusions about the effectiveness, or a lack of it, of smoking cessation competitions. This is due to a lack of well‐designed comparative studies. Smoking cessation competitions have not been shown to enhance long‐term cessation rates.”

“The limited evidence suggesting that population‐based Quit & Win contests at local and regional level might deliver quit rates above baseline community rates has not been tested adequately using rigorous study designs. It is also unclear whether the value or frequency of possible cash reward schedules influence the success of competitions. Future studies should be designed to compensate for the substantial biases in the current evidence base.”



  • “Competitions for smoking cessation” by Fanshawe, Hartmann-Boyce, Perera and Lindson -
 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, dog walker