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Freebies for smokers and obese to change lifestyles

PUBLISHED: 12:39 04 June 2009 | UPDATED: 16:49 25 August 2010

CASH incentives are being offered to smokers and the obese to help motivate them to live healthier lives.

CASH incentives are being offered to smokers and the obese to help motivate them to live healthier lives.

Bexley Care Trust last year gave £500 to a smoker for signing up to quit for four weeks whilst Bromley council helps fund £500 prizes for people who lose weight.

Health chiefs defended the freebies despite evidence that Bexley Care Trust handed out £850 to three individuals, but did not follow up their progress.

Jo Woodvine, manager of Bexley Stop Smoking Service, said: "I don't see smokers as people harming themselves intentionally. Once they get sucked into nicotine addiction it takes away their choice.

"None of us are born smokers. Those that end up in that cycle need support to get out of it."

Bexley Care Trust's £232,000 smoking service has a 67 per cent success rate, the second highest in London, and persuaded 1,656 people to kick the habit for a month last year.

The Trust initiated the one off prize-draw early last year to entice more people to sign up.

The Government believes that once smokers have got involved with a support service, smokers are four times more likely to successfully quit.

Ms Woodvine added: "Considering what it costs to treat people with cancer it's a drop in the ocean really.

"It did have the affect of raising the numbers of people using our service, and we will encourage those people into healthier lifestyles."

Overweight Bromley residents can sign up for The Change Challenge, where entrants can win £500 if they lose five per cent of their weight and maintain it for three months.

The Bromley Mytime scheme is supported by Bromley council.

Cash bribes are mirrored by a Bromley Care Trust competition targeted at youths, where a Wii computer console can be won by those agreeing to a Chlamydia test.

A Trust spokesperson said: "One of the greatest challenges is to change behaviours permanently so that more local people get into the habit of living healthier lifestyles which prevent ill health later.

"Bromley PCT works closely with its partners including London Borough of Bromley to encourage lifestyle changes that promote better health long term."

Greenwich Primary Care Trust said it had no prize-incentive schemes.

n For more information on quitting smoking: www.bexleypct.nhs.uk.

jules.cooper@archant.co.uk

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