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Tobacco Reduction: Incentivized Behaviour Change for Youth


  • Tobacco reduction,
  • Social environment,
  • Community,
  • Facilities & organizations,
  • Healthcare facilities,
  • Schools,
  • Workplace,

Tobacco Reduction: Incentivized behaviour change for youth

Research shows that tobacco use is a leading cause of preventable disease and death in Canada. In 2015, approximately 2780 new cancers diagnosed in Alberta were linked to tobacco smoking.1 Tobacco smoke contains over 7,000 chemicals with at least 172 of these being toxic and 69 known to cause cancer.2 Tobacco is the only consumer product that will kill at least one in two regular users when used as it’s intended to be used.3 Positive reinforcement of preferred health behaviours can support youth to make better decisions about their health. 

Ways to get started

  • Work with relevant stakeholders to select incentives that reflect the funds and resources available to you. Also consider what your participants may find valuable. Incentives can include ballots for draws, gift vouchers, and/or monetary compensation. 
  • Use positive reinforcement the desired behaviour change. For example, a Positive Ticket program. Many Alberta communities (Hinton, Leduc, Ponoka and Calgary), partner with law enforcement to identify and reward children and youth for good behaviours that benefit the individual and the community.
  • Work with schools to create programs that gradually increase incentives for ongoing smoke-free behaviours4. This means that the incentives go up over time with ongoing behaviour change, such as smoking cessation and/or abstinence4.
  • Use age-appropriate language5, that includes culturally and gender diverse images.6


For further action to reduce tobacco use in the community, see

Multi-component community-wide interventions that increase awareness about and provide opportunities to reduce tobacco use in your community will have greater impact than implementing one-off strategies.

Evaluation measures the impact of all the hard work that went into developing a community initiative. Evaluating impact examines:

  1. What you expect to learn or change
  2. What you measure and report
  3. How to measure impact

What you expect to learn about incentivized behaviour change for the youth may include:

  • Learning that the strategy was implemented as planned
  • Learning that the strategy is reaching those you want to reach
  • Increased positive behaviours
  • Increased number of initiatives that reinforce positive behaviours

References Incentivized Behaviour Change for Youth

  1. Poirier AE, Ruan Y, Grevers X, Walter SD, Villeneuve PJ, Friedenreich CM, Brenner DR. Estimates of the current and future burden of cancer attributable to active and passive tobacco smoking in Canada. Preventive Medicine. 2019;122:9-19.
  2. United States Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS). (2010). How tobacco smoke causes disease: The biology and behavioral basis for smoking-attributable disease: A report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: Author. Accessed at:
  3. Els, C. (2009). Tobacco addiction: What do we know, and where do we go? Accessed at: _and_where_do_we_go
  4. Kong G, Goldberg A, Dallery J, Krishnan-Sarin S. An open-pilot study of an interventon using mobile phones to deliver contingency management of tobacco abstinence to high school students. Exp Clin Psychopharmacol. 2017;25(5):333-337.
  5. McCallum GB, Chang AB, Saunders J, et al. Feasibility of a peer-led asthma and smoking prevention project in Australian schools with high Indigenous youth. Front Pediatr. 2017;5:33
  6. Kapitány-Fövény M, Vagdalt E, Ruttkay Z, Urbán5 R, Richman MJ, Demetrovics Z. Potential of an ineractive drug prevention mobile phone app (once upon a high): Questionnaire study among students. JMIR Serious Games. 2018;6(4):e19
  7. Rozema AD, Hiemstra M, Mathijssen JJP, Jansen MWJ, van Oers HJAM. Impact of an outdoor smoking ban at secondary schools on cigarettes, e-cigarettes and water pipe use among adolescents: An 18-month follow-up. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018;15(2):205.