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Prev Med. 2014 Feb;59:1-4. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2013.10.008. Epub 2013 Oct 16.

Financial versus health motivation to quit smoking: a randomized field study.

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  • 1Yale School of Public Health, Yale School of Medicine, P.O. Box 208034, New Haven, CT 06520-8034, USA. Electronic address:
  • 2Yale Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, 34 Park Street, New Haven, CT 06519-1187, USA. Electronic address:



Smoking is the most preventable cause of death, thus justifying efforts to effectively motivate quitting. We compared the effectiveness of financial versus health messages to motivate smoking cessation. Low-income individuals disproportionately smoke and, given their greater income constraints, we hypothesized that making financial costs of smoking more salient would encourage more smokers to try quitting. Further, we predicted that financial messages would be stronger in financial settings where pecuniary constraints are most salient.


We conducted a field study in low-income areas of New Haven, Connecticut using brochures with separate health vs. financial messages to motivate smoking cessation. Displays were rotated among community settings-check-cashing, health clinics, and grocery stores. We randomized brochure displays with gain-framed cessation messages across locations.


Our predictions were confirmed. Financial messages attracted significantly more attention than health messages, especially in financial settings.


These findings suggest that greater emphasis on the financial gains to quitting and use of financial settings to provide cessation messages may be more effective in motivating quitting. Importantly, use of financial settings could open new, non-medical venues for encouraging cessation. Encouraging quitting could improve health, enhance spending power of low-income smokers, and reduce health disparities in both health and purchasing power.

© 2013.


Behavioral economics low-income; Disparities; Financial incentives; Message framing; Smoking; Smoking cessation

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