People Are Quitting Smoking Due to Covid19 Concerns: UK Study
According to a new analysis conducted amid social distancing and lockdown, smoking has dramatically reduced in the UK, with smokers quitting due to health concerns about contracting Covid19.
The University College London (UCL), in collaboration with Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), a public health charity that works to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco, surveyed over 10,000 people in an effort to estimate the total number of people in the UK who have given up smoking under lockdown. Based on the percentage of responses, the researchers estimate that a million smokers may have quit in the UK alone. “[This is] a rare piece of good news to emerge from the Covid19 crisis… even if the true figure is only half as big — ‘only’ half a million — that would represent a massive step forward in UK public health,” John Britton, director of the UK Center for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies at the University of Nottingham, who was not involved in the study, said. In fact, the UCL said that more people have quit smoking during the pandemic than in all the years since 2007.
Most of those surveyed cited health concerns as their reason to quit. And, studies have shown that smokers are at a greater risk of Covid19 infection due to cell-damage in lungs, which could diminish one’s ability to respond to the infection.
A multi-country survey conducted by the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, a non-profit organization based in the US, found that two-thirds of the smokers surveyed in India have attempted to quit smoking due to fear of the pandemic. Among them, as many as 72 percent of smokers are between the ages of 18 to 24.
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“I have two cartons of cigarettes that I had bought at duty-free before the lockdown. So, clearly, I can smoke whenever I want to, despite the lockdown. [But] I decided to quit, and have so far just never felt the urge to smoke,” a Delhi-based advertising professional told The Hindu, adding that he has been clean for 70 days since, and is beginning to get repulsed by the smell of cigarettes when he steps out for grocery runs — despite being a smoker for 15 years.
However, in addition to the pandemic-panic, the lack of easy availability of cigarettes under lockdown, especially with a government directive temporarily banning tobacco sales in April, has also forced some to quit. Some young, migrant Indians have also moved in with their families under lockdown, which has prevented them from indulging in cigarettes due to family pressures. Also, “…many times, the use of tobacco products, especially smoking, is a social activity among friends, colleagues and fellow tobacco users. Now that people are in isolation because of social distancing, this could be a good opportunity [to quit],” Ravi Mehrotra, epidemiologist and Program Lead of ICMR’s India Cancer Research Consortium, told IndiaSpend.
Experts believe that the confidence derived from successfully abstaining for such a long period of time could also act as a huge motivating factor to continue refraining from cigarettes even after the lockdown eases, or the fear of contracting Covid19 reduces.
Evidently, one way or another, the pandemic appears to have achieved what anti-smoking initiatives by governments, and health organizations worldwide, have been trying to achieve for decades now.