"Most people tend to be not very good at making trade-offs between immediate gratification and future health benefits. There's a probability that something bad will happen to them, but it's not definite, whereas the cost of changing a behavior is immediate and often requires a lot of effort. An incentive program can be helpful in areas like smoking, where it can help change the equation so people weigh the future consequences of their actions.
"Indeed, in our study with GE employees, we provided financial incentives up to $750, which is approximately the annual cost difference between a smoking and nonsmoking premium. That incentive tripled the long-term smoking cessation rate, and in January 2010, GE decided to implement the program for all their employees.