Smoking has increased during the pandemic

Public health authorities are encouraging smokers to take part in this year’s annual Public Health England & NHS Stoptober campaign, following reports of smoking increases during the pandemic. With the Stoptober campaign in full swing, it’s the perfect opportunity to join the 2.3 million people who have made a quit attempt since the campaign began 10 years ago, because if you can make it to 28 days smoke free, you can do it for good!

The effects of the lockdown
A recent study from University College London in association with Cancer Research UK has found that the number of 18 – 34-year-olds in England who smoke increased by 25% during the first national lockdown. Another nationwide survey involving 2000 current smokers revealed that 45% reported smoking more since the pandemic began.

The pandemic has been an extremely difficult time for many, and it has been suggested that the false belief that smoking can help relieve stress has played a big part in the increase in uptake.

Dr Sarah Jackson from the UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Health, explains;
“The first lockdown was unprecedented in the way it changed people’s day-to-day lives. We found that many smokers took this opportunity to stop smoking, which is fantastic. However, the first lockdown was also a period of great stress for many people, and we saw rates of smoking and risky drinking increase among groups hardest hit by the pandemic.”

As Dr Jackson suggests, some people have used the pandemic as an opportunity to make a positive change in their lives and kick their smoking habit. A number of existing smokers found that the change to their daily routine removed their usual smoking cues, like the daily commute and cigarette breaks with colleagues. This break from routine, along with stop smoking support and alternative nicotine sources like e-cigarettes have helped them kick the habit and let their body begin to recover.

Make the switch and quit for good
Estimates suggest that the increased number of young adults who smoke means that smokers would need to quit at a rate of 40% faster than predicted to achieve the Governments goal for England to be smoke-free by 2030. This makes resources like e-cigarettes and campaigns like Stoptober even more important in the fight to reach this goal.

Scott Crosby, Tobacco Control Programme Manager at Public Health England, stated;

“Quitting smoking will not only immediately improve your physical health but also your bank balance. Research shows that if you can make it to 28 days smoke-free then you are 5-times more likely to quit for good. It’s been a tough time over the pandemic for smokers. But the numbers trying to quit is up and the success rate is up. Now is the time to do it!”

E-cigarettes can play a really important role for many in a successful quit attempt. As Dr Crosby explains, if a person can abstain from smoking for 28 days, they are five times more likely to quit for good, and a recent study from London South Band University found that e-cigarettes achieved a 58% quit rate after 4 weeks.

By making the switch from smoking to vaping, smokers can keep their nicotine cravings at bay with a device that feels familiar and also addresses the physical habit of smoking, while removing the harmful substances like tar and carbon monoxide from the equation.

Smoking is the biggest preventable cause of cancer, known to cause at least 15 different types, as well as a number of other serious diseases. However, e-cigarettes have been found by Public Health England to be 95% less harmful than smoking, and do not contain the numerous toxic substances found in combustible cigarettes.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a stressful and tumultuous time for us all, but it has also highlighted the need to prioritise our health, and quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do to help lead a healthier lifestyle.

At a glance
·The number of 18 – 34-year-olds who smoke increased by 25% in England during the first lockdown.

·2.3 million people have made quit attempts since the Stoptober campaign launched 10 years ago.

·A nationwide survey of 2000 smokers found that 45% have been smoking more since the pandemic began.