WEDNESDAY, Jan. 28, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Financial incentives help pregnant women quit smoking, a new study shows.
Smoking is the leading preventable cause of illness and death among mothers and babies in developed countries, the researchers say.
"This study provides substantial evidence of a very promising and potentially cost-effective new intervention to add to present health service support," the researchers wrote.
The study included 612 pregnant smokers in the United Kingdom who were randomly assigned to one of two groups. One group received hundreds of dollars in shopping vouchers if they stopped smoking.
The women in the other (control) group received usual care to help them quit smoking, including counseling and free nicotine replacement therapy for 10 weeks.
Overall, 23 percent of the women in the financial incentive group quit smoking, compared with 9 percent of those in the control group, according to the study published Jan. 27 in the journal BMJ.
Twelve months later, 15 percent of the women in the financial incentive group remained smoke-free, compared with 4 percent of those in the control group.
Financial incentives may also be a way to get parents to bring their children in for recommended vaccinations, the study authors suggested.
The findings can serve as the basis for future research to include other health care systems, they added.
The March of Dimes has more about smoking and pregnancy.