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Record number of Brits quit smoking during pandemic

A survey by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) and analysis by University College London have found that over a million people have quit smoking in the 4 months since the Coronavirus pandemic hit Britain.

Why quit for COVID?

Research conducted since the outbreak, as well as existing knowledge of viruses suggest that smokers are more vulnerable to COVID-19, and are likely to experience more severe symptoms.
Public Health England’s guidance states;

“There is strong evidence that smoking tobacco is generally associated with an increased risk of developing respiratory viral infections.”

Smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death in the UK, and many of the symptoms associated with COVID-19 are also associated with smoking, such as coughing, chest infections and difficulty breathing. Smoking also lowers the immune system, making smokers more susceptible to illness, Public Health England explain;

“Smoking causes damage to the lungs and airways and harms the immune system, reducing your ability to fight infection.”

Because of this, many healthcare organisations have advised smokers to use this opportunity to make a quit attempt or to at least abstain from smoking during this time. The numbers are showing that people are taking this advise seriously for the sake of their health and those around them.

Record number of people quit

Research by ASH and UCL show that over a million people have made a successful quit attempt since the beginning of the pandemic, the highest number of successful quit attempts in a decade, with 41% of them saying that they chose to quit as a direct result of Coronavirus.

ASH also found that a further 440,000 people made a quit attempt during this time but have since returned to smoking.

Hazel Cheeseman, Director of Policy at ASH, appeared on BBC Radio London to speak about the dramatic drop in smoking rates, and the use of e-cigarettes as a stop smoking aid. Cheeseman explained that the most substantial drop in smoking was seen among younger people;

“Younger smokers have quit at a much greater rate than older smokers, which is perhaps not what you might have expected when you think that health concerns might be driving people’s behaviour, and older people, particularly older smokers, are much more likely to have conditions that make them vulnerable to COVID.”

She goes on to explain that while for many health concerns are still their main driver for giving up smoking, for others it has been the change of routine brought about by the COVID-19 lockdown that has helped them make the quit;

“I think it is particularly interesting that we have seen this very high rate of quitting among smokers under 30. I think part of the reason is that people’s lives have been massively disrupted, and younger peoples lives have been probably more disrupted than older peoples lives… There are lots of different reasons why smokers are quitting at this time, for some it’s definitely the health concerns and for others it’s more “Here is an opportunity, my life has changed massively, I’m going to give quitting a go.””

Host Petrie Hoskin went on to ask if ASH support people making the switch from smoking to vaping, explaining that she has noticed that a lot of the smokers under 30 that she knows have now moved to an e-cigarette as a stop smoking aid. Cheeseman was very quick to explain how e-cigarettes are definitely the better choice, with a rather interesting little anecdote;

“Absolutely, that is a much safer way of consuming nicotine… While e-cigarettes might not be completely risk free, you are talking about many magnitudes less risky. I have heard people compare using an e-cigarette to jumping off the bottom step of a high rise building, compared to smoking a cigarette which is like jumping out of the sixth floor.”

ASH is about to launch a new campaign in the hopes of encouraging more smokers to quit, as Deborah Arnott, Chief of ASH, explains;

“Over a million smokers may have succeeded in stopping smoking since COVID-19 hit Britain, but millions have carried on smoking. This campaign is designed to encourage those who’ve not yet succeeded, to wake up and decide today is the day to stop smoking.”

At the moment there is little information known about the new campaign, which is set to launch imminently, but if ever there was a time to consider giving up smoking, it is most definitely now!

If you are looking to give up smoking and are thinking of making the switch to vaping, head over to our blog for lots of information and advice on how to get started, or pop in to your local Evapo store and speak to a member of our team.

Sources – Listen from 01:09:00 to 01:16:44.