Published: 31st March 2021
Stress, free time, boredom resulted in increase in number of cigarettes smoked a day during COVID-19
In contrast, 10 per cent of participants decreased their tobacco use and attributed that to schedule changes, being around non-smokers such as children and health reasons
A US-based survey has revealed that stress, increased free time and feelings of boredom may have contributed to an increase in the number of cigarettes smoked per day during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. The findings, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, indicated that smokers who increased the number of cigarettes they smoked per day could be at greater risk of dependence and have a more difficult time quitting.
"Knowing the reasons for increased tobacco use and the motivations of those who successfully quit smoking can help us identify how to better address cessation efforts during the pandemic," said researcher Jessica Yingst, Assistant Professor at the Pennsylvania State University in the US. For the study, the research team asked 291 smokers in Pennsylvania about their tobacco use patterns before and during the early months of the pandemic including how frequently they used tobacco products, reasons why their use patterns changed and whether they attempted to quit.
Nearly a third of smokers reporting increased use due to stress, increased free time and boredom. One participant stated, "Working at home allows me to smoke at will rather than being in a smoke-free environment for 8 hours per day." In contrast, 10 per cent of participants decreased their tobacco use and attributed that to schedule changes, being around non-smokers such as children and health reasons. Nearly a quarter of participants reported attempting to quit smoking during the pandemic. A third of those who attempted to quit conveyed that they did so to reduce their risk of poor outcomes should they become infected with COVID-19.
One participant stated, "I quit as soon as I came down with a fever and cough. Clearly, I am aware of how detrimental smoking is to my health; however, I did not consider how it could make me more vulnerable to COVID-19 and its effects. I was terrified and quit immediately." Ultimately, seven people were successful in quitting all tobacco use.