A survey conducted last year, involving 10,000 participants revealed that 7.6% of them had stopped smoking between the months of April and June. If these statistics are extrapolated out to estimate the number of smokers who have quit since the pandemic, the numbers are staggering.
Is lockdown prompting people to quit smoking?
The poll that was conducted by Action on Smoking and Health aka. ASH, found that 41% of its participants who quit stated that they did so as a direct result of the ongoing pandemic. Many reasons could prompt people to quit the habit such as health concerns, access to tobacco and not being able to smoke in their apartments.In addition, it seems that a large number of those who quit smoking are young people, much better to do so sooner rather than later. a further 17 per cent of respondents between the ages of 17 and 29 had quit during the ongoing pandemic.
Separately, University College London (UCL) has been asking 1,000 people a month about their smoking habits since 2007 as part of their Smoking Toolkit Study. And, they found that in the year leading up to June 2020, 7.6% of people taking part in the study had quit smoking, almost a third higher than the average and highest proportion since the survey began. Directory of policy at ASH, Hazel Cheeseman stated:
We don't know for sure why so many people are giving up smoking. But we feel the threat of coronavirus has motivated people to do things to improve their health.
What are the risks of smoking with coronavirus?
An analysis conducted by King's College London discovered that smokers were more than twice as likely to develop severe complications due to COVID-19 than non-smokers. This also aligned with research by US scientists that found that smokers were 1.8 times more likely to die from coronavirus than non-smokers.
This study analysed the characteristics of 1,099 patients. On this panel, 927 never smoked, 21 were former smokers, and 137 were frequent smokers. Among the 927 who didn't smoke, 793 never had a severe form of coronavirus, and 134 did. Of the 158 smokers and former smokers, 120 did not develop a severe form of the virus, while 38 did. This represents 14.46% for non-smokers and 24.05% for smokers or former smokers.
However, none of this research suggested that smokers are more likely to develop the virus, but if they did, then they may be more likely to experience severe symptoms. Public health England describes:
There is strong evidence that smoking tobacco is generally associated with an increased risk of developing respiratory viral infections. Smoking causes damage to the lungs and airways and harms the immune system, reducing your ability to fight infection.