Determined to quit smoking? Lay your salary on the chopping block

Smoking is an addiction. If you disagree, there’s probably little point in you reading this article.

On the other hand, if you have tried to quit smoking and failed many times over, you will agree it is a relentless drain on your health and finances. The cigarette becomes an essential part of your life, making it very hard to quit and stay away.

The problem is that cigarettes give instant gratification, while most of the negative effects are long-term. Your health can decline subtly, and you might not realize just how much money you burn on cigarettes over time.

So a team of researchers decided to make the financial downside of smoking a little more “painful”, to see whether this would help smokers quit their habit.

The research

The field experiment (Gine, Karlan, Zinman, 2009) focused on a group of volunteers who wished to stop smoking. As part of the study, they were asked to deposit funds in a savings account once a month for six months. The total deposited was approximately 20% of their monthly income.

At the end of this period, they would be tested for indicators of smoking. If found clean of any smoking-related substances, they would get their money back. If not, the money would be donated to charity.

The results

After six months, the volunteers were given a urine test — 35% were found to be free of any smoking-related substances, having effectively quit their habit.

More importantly, a surprise test 12 months later found 48% of them had stayed away from smoking.

How you can use this method to quit and stay away from smoking

As Mark Twain says, “Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.”

The method above isn’t only effective at helping you quit, but also at keeping you away from the habit in the long term.

Here’s how you can set up a system to help you quit smoking, using the principles in this article:

  1. Find a friend or family member whom you trust and who cares about your success.
  2. Set up a monthly automatic transfer of funds from your account to this person’s account. To decide how much you will be contributing per month, use this formula:
    (Your Monthly Salary x 20%) / 6 = Monthly Contribution There’s no need to go for a huge chunk of your salary. Just make sure the sum is large enough to make it a painful loss if you don’t succeed.
  3. Agree on which charity will benefit in case you fail. For extra motivation, get your friend to choose a charity you’re not particularly fond of.
  4. Write all the details down on paper, sign it, and have your friend sign it too.

IMPORTANT: Make sure your friend is committed to following through with the plan even if you fail. This will give you the resolve to stick to the plan and finally give up smoking once and for all!


Gine, X., Karlan, D., & Zinman, J. (2009). Put Your Money Where Your Butt Is: A Commitment Contract for Smoking Cessation. PsycEXTRA Dataset.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *