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Smokers to be paid £50 a month to help them quit habit

Smokers in deprived communities are to be paid £12.50 a week to encourage them to quit the habit. The initiative is to be tried in Dundee and if successful will be rolled out across the country.

Smokers in deprived communities are to be paid £12.50 a week to encourage them to quit the habit.

The initiative is to be tried in Dundee and if successful will be rolled out across the country.

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It follows the major success of a similar scheme "Give it up for Baby" in which pregnant women in the city were offered financial incentives to encourage them to stop smoking. That resulted in the numbers quitting rising sevenfold in the first year and this year a 15-fold increase is expected.

The new £500,000 initiative is being funded jointly by NHS Tayside, Dundee City Council and the Scottish Government.

The aim is to tackle the circumstances of smokers living in poorer communities which can often act as barriers to giving up. Under the scheme, which will be open to 18,000 smokers in Dundee, participants who stop smoking will be given £12.50 per week for three months, credited on to an electronic card. They can redeem the card in their local supermarket for fresh food and groceries, excluding alcohol and cigarettes.

They will receive nicotine replacement therapy through their pharmacy where they have to undertake a weekly carbon monoxide breath test.

It is expected 1800 smokers might sign up and around half of them would be expected to achieve success and be entitled to the £50 a month. The participants will also benefit from social support from Dundee Healthy Living Initiative including cessation help, physical activity and other lifestyle advice.

Sandy Watson, chairman of NHS Tayside, said: "Last year the Scottish Government challenged NHS Tayside to address smoking in disadvantaged areas. This project seeks to deliver on that and if successful could be replicated nationally.

"Smoking in Dundee is a difficult problem to tackle but we are hopeful that this innovative approach will encourage smokers to stop smoking for good and therefore make a real difference to their long-term health."

Paul Ballard, deputy director of public health, NHS Tayside, said: "There are 36,000 smokers in Dundee, half of whom live in poverty. Although current smoking cessation services are working well, because of the complexities of poverty and health we know we need to do more to tackle this. We will always work with local communities to find ways to help them make changes to their health behaviour."

He added: "The whole thrust of this approach is trying to level the playing field for deprived communities.

"We are trying to give them an incentive which is meaningful."

The move was welcomed by Sheila Duffy, chief executive of Action Smoking on Health Scotland.

She said:"Quitting smoking is hard and any positive way to encourage and support people to give up cigarettes is to be welcomed."

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