New Study: US Smoking Cessation Rates Declined During The COVID-19 Pandemic

A new study found that the amount of people in the US trying to quit smoking, declined after the onset of COVID-19 and persisted for over a year.

Led by researchers at the American Cancer Society (ACS), the study reported that interestingly the declines were more common among persons more likely to be negatively affected by the virus, such as people with comorbidities, middle-aged people, and those who are less educated. The declines in cessation attempts started immediately after the onset of COVID-19 and persisted for over a year.

“Smoking cessation is an urgent public health priority given that smoking is associated with an increased risk of severe COVID-19 outcomes and at least 12 cancers,” said Dr. Priti Bandi, principal scientist, risk factors & screening surveillance research at the American Cancer Society and lead author of the study. “It is essential to re-engage persons who smoke in serious attempts to quit smoking, considering a typical smoker tries to quit on average six times before being successful.”

Another recent study released by Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, listed pandemic-related anxiety, boredom, and irregular routines as the main drivers for increased nicotine and tobacco use during the pandemic.

The drivers of tobacco use during the pandemic
Titled, “Multi-level drivers of tobacco use and purchasing behaviors during COVID-19 “lockdown”: A qualitative study in the United States,” was published in the International Journal of Drug Policy. In line with previous findings the researchers highlighted the following Covid-related changes:

·“Increases driven by individual factors (eg, anxiety, boredom, irregular routines).
·Fewer interpersonal interactions led to decreased use among social tobacco users.
·Smoking and vaping behaviors in the home shifted due to new household dynamics.
·Vaping products less accessible than cigarettes, driving users to purchase online.”

With these factors in mind, the study suggests certain public health interventions and policies that can better support tobacco harm reduction and smoking cessation attempts, during the pandemic and beyond. “To mitigate ways that the COVID-19 pandemic may exacerbate an existing public health crisis, multi-level policy strategies, such as expanded virtual cessation services and implementation and enforcement of smoke-free home rules, can better support population health during this critical period. Policies that facilitate access to lower risk products can help minimize harm among those who cannot or do not want to quit smoking.”