stop smoking

Image by Martin Büdenbender from Pixabay

A million smokers in Britain have quit during the pandemic

Studies show younger people in their teens and 20s giving up smoking at a far greater rate than those over 50.

stop smoking

Image by Martin Büdenbender from Pixabay

As the near-hysterical debate continues in South Africa over the cigarette ban and its relevance, or otherwise, to COVID-19, in the UK a study indicates that around a million people have stopped smoking since the pandemic hit.

The survey conducted by an organisation called Ash (Action on Smoking and Health) found that a further 440 000 people tried to quit smoking during this period.

Of those who did manage to give up, close to half (41%) said it was a direct response to heightened health concerns during the coronavirus pandemic.

Those aged 16-29 lead the quitters

In its press statement accompanying the research, Ash says smokers who are hospitalised with COVID-19 are more likely to suffer severe outcomes than non-smokers.

The results of the study indicate that around 400 000 people aged 16-29 have quit, compared to a much lesser figure of 240 000 of those aged over 50.

People aged 30-49 have a slightly lower rate of quitting than the under-30s, Ash said.

There is great variation by age

“While thousands have heeded advice to quit during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is great variation by age, with younger smokers quitting at a much greater rate than older smokers,” the organisation noted.

The findings tie in with another UK study published in late June by Ash, in conjunction with University College London.

That study put forward a number of reasons why under-30s might have been more likely to change their smoking habits since lockdown.

Social lives severely disrupted

Among these is the reality that young people’s social lives were severely disrupted during lockdown.

“Young people’s smoking behaviour is more likely to be tied to social settings than older people,” the researchers said.

“With the loss of pubs, bars, parties and other social gatherings, many young smokers may have had fewer opportunities to smoke and been more inclined to quit.”

Many more have lost their jobs

Another reason may be that a disproportionate number of young people have lost their jobs.

“Young people are more likely to work in industries that have suffered heavily as a result of lockdown, such as hospitality,” the researchers suggested.

“Reduced incomes may be a big motivator for some to quit, given that young smokers are more price sensitive than older smokers.”