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Minnesota cigarette smokers who are trying to quit the habit have the opportunity to bet on themselves and earn some cash in the process. 

The Hennepin Healthcare Research Institute, which oversees the medical research at Hennepin County Medical Center, is currently testing the new method to help people during that challenging process, called "QuitBet."

It's a game funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) — features participants betting $30 on themselves to quit smoking over a four-week period. 

The $30 goes into a pot, with participants receiving a free breath-testing device, which is linked to their cellphones and tracks their progress each day. When the four weeks conclude, each person who quit wins back their deposit, plus a profit from the pot they split with other participants.

Hennepin Healthcare says people typically double their money when they complete the game. However, the money will be lost if the goal isn't completed. Those who participate can request and receive a refund by the end of the first day, but beyond that there are no refunds.

The breath test devices cannot detect e-cigarettes, so this program is specifically designed for cigarette users. QuitBet's website states that a possible nicotine detection app "may be offered" in the future for e-cig users.

The game is developed by WayBetter, which has developed similar games, such as DietBet (weight loss) and StepBet (walking) to help make the process of forming good habits easier. 

The Minnesota Department of Health says that roughly 580,000 adults (or 13.7% of the adult population) smoke cigarettes in the state. Nearly 13% of kids in grades 9-11 also use cigarettes, according to a study recorded in 2016, though it's expected that figure has dropped since then.

MDH notes that, even though the use of cigarettes, cigars and smokeless tobacco have declined, the use of e-cigarettes is more than double than cigarette use, specifically relating to youths in Minnesota.

Total grant funds from the NIH estimate around $1.15 million for the QuitBet game. 

“We’ve known for years that paying people to change behaviors, known as contingency management, works to help people stop smoking. However, implementing contingency management in a sustainable way is difficult. QuitBet solves this by having players self-fund their own incentives,” said Dr. Sandra Japuntich, who is a Hennepin Healthcare investigator providing scientific support on the project.

Participants must be at least 21 years old, live in the United States and smoke at least five cigarettes a day, according to the study.

To sign up for the study, download the QuitBet app from the Apple or Google Play App stores, or download via their website

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