People trying to quit ended up smoking more during Covid-19 pandemic, study shows

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  • A new study looked at the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on smokers' tobacco habits.
  • A link was found between pandemic-induced stress and increased smoking.
  • These findings can help healthcare workers give their patients who smoke better advice on tobacco management.

The Covid-19 pandemic increased tobacco use as people used tobacco products to cope psychologically because of uncertainty about the future, general stress, and the frustration of a disrupted daily life.

The study published in the Ochsner Journal evaluated how cigarette smoking habits were being affected by Covid-19.

The researchers enrolled 150 people who were part of a lung cancer screening and tobacco cessation programme. The participants also filled out a survey consisting of three parts. In the first part, they reported their changes in tobacco use; in the second part, they listed coping strategies for Covid-19; and in the third part, participants reported their Covid-19 exposure and adherence to protective measures.

Increase in smoking

The study found that  28.2% of the participants reported increased tobacco use, while 17.3% stated that they decreased their smoking, and 54.5% experienced no change in their smoking status. There were also no reports of relapse among former smokers.

The research found a correlation between increased tobacco use and coping strategies and mental health such as high uncertainty about the future; loneliness; anger or frustration with how the pandemic disrupted daily life; sadness or feelings of hopelessness; and worry or fear about challenges to securing basic needs such as groceries or medication.

The results also show that people who smoked less were more likely to practise physical distancing and other Covid-19 protective measures.

The study authors say that the findings can be used to help smokers get the medical care that they need, especially during stressful periods like the pandemic.

“These data may aid healthcare providers to identify and provide counsel to cigarette smokers at greater risks for increasing tobacco consumption during stresses such as Covid-19,” the authors wrote.

*For more Covid-19 research, science and news, click here. You can also sign up for our Daily Dose newsletter here.

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