French hospitals to pay pregnant women to stop smoking

Loic Venance, AFP | A pregnant woman in southwestern France on March 19, 2011

Hospitals in cities across France will pay expectant mothers up to €300 in vouchers to stop smoking as part of a study to test the effectiveness financial incentives have on helping women quit while pregnant.


It’s no secret that smoking during pregnancy is a no-no. It increases the likelihood of miscarriage, and has been known to cause placental insufficiency, which can be dangerous for both the mother and the fetus. It has also been linked to higher rates of pre-term births, as well as certain congenital defects.

Yet despite the well-documented risks, 17.8 percent of women in France continue to smoke while pregnant, according to a 2015 report by the ministry of health, making it the country with the highest rate of tobacco use during pregnancy in Europe.

In an effort to tackle the problem, the public hospital system in the Paris region (l’Assistance Publique – Hôpitaux de Paris) launched a study on March 25 to test the effectiveness financial incentives have on helping women quit smoking while pregnant.

Seventeen hospitals in cities across the country have agreed to take part in the 36-month trial. Participants will meet with a smoking cessation specialist at their regularly scheduled pregnancy checkups, after which they will be rewarded with a €20 voucher per session that can be spent in any number of stores.

Overall, expectant mothers will have the chance earn as much as €300 in vouchers during their pregnancy, not to mention the money they’ll save on cigarettes.

To qualify for the study, participants must be at least 18-years-old, no more than four and a half months pregnant and smoke a minimum of five manufactured or three rolled cigarettes a day. But perhaps most importantly, they must have a strong desire to quit.

It’s not the first time vouchers have been used as the proverbial carrot in a study on smoking during pregnancy. Just last year, researchers in the Scottish city of Glasgow published the results of a similar trial in the British Journal of Medicine, which found that financial incentives were highly effective in helping pregnant women kick the habit.

Of the 612 women who participated, 22.5 percent of who were offered financial incentives stopped smoking, while only 8.6 percent of those who met exclusively with a smoking-cessation specialist were able to stop.

“I think what women liked about the scheme was that instead of blaming them or stigmatising them for smoking, it gave them a reward for making a change that was quite difficult for them to achieve. I think the reason why it worked was because that type of reward really added to the motivation that many of them already had,” one of the trial’s lead researchers, University of Stirling Professor Linda Bauld, told the BBC in 2015.

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