The estimates are based on findings from the UK arm of YouGov’s international COVID-19 Tracker. They come as evidence is showing that smokers in hospital who have coronavirus are at a higher risk than non-smokers of severe illness.
One Bristol GP who recognised the growing concerns among his patients who smoked was Dr Charlie Kenward who last month launched the campaign #Quit forCOVID on Twitter which has since been backed by the Smokefree Action Coalition and respiratory clinicians. The Association of Directors of Public Health has become the latest organisation to support calls for smokers to quit for COVID.
Dr Kenward said: “Stopping smoking remains the single biggest thing people can do to improve their overall health. It will improve heart and lung health as well as reducing the chances of developing cancer and even improve wound healing after surgery.
“There has never been a better time to quit and with a wealth of resources available to support you, I urge people to take control of your health and stop smoking today.”
The QuitforCOVID campaign is encouraging smokers to seek help with their quit attempts by visiting www.todayistheday.co.uk and ask questions of leading experts by tweeting @QuitforCOVID.
Ruth Tennant, Tobacco lead for the Association of Directors of Public Health, said: “There are so many reasons to quit smoking but never a more important time than right now during the coronavirus pandemic. Emerging evidence suggests that smoking puts people more at risk from severe complications from COVID-19, and the ADPH is supporting efforts to encourage smokers to quit for COVID.”
The survey – the first in the UK to reveal how coronavirus is impacting smokers’ attitudes towards cigarettes, shows that COVID-19 is significantly increasing smokers’ motivation to quit and to stay quit. It finds that:
- 2% of ex-smokers say that they have quit completely recently due to COVID -19. This equates to around 300,000 people who are now ex-smokers because of concerns over COVID-19.
- A quarter of ex-smokers say that COVID-19 makes it less likely they will relapse to smoking (4% say it makes it more likely they will relapse)
- 8% of smokers have tried to quit because of COVID – this equates to around 550,000 smokers in UK trying to quit.
- 36% have cut down how many cigarettes they smoke. This equates to around 2.4 million smokers cutting down the amount they smoke because of concerns over COVID-19.
- 27% of smokers say they are more likely to quit because of COVID
While concerns around COVID-19 appears to be reducing smoking overall, 14% of smokers say it has made them less likely to quit as a result.
Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of ASH, who worked with YouGov on the survey, said: “COVID-19 is making everyone much more concerned about staying healthy, and for people who smoke that means quitting.
“This survey shows that COVID-19 has increased the desire of many smokers to quit. It is important that health professionals are still able to offer them the support they need to give them the best chance to succeed.”
Smokers are also much more at risk of range of serious health problems requiring them to be admitted to hospital such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, chronic bronchitis, emphysema and pneumonia.
Dr Nick Hopkinson, Respiratory Specialist at Imperial College London and Chair of Action on Smoking Health, (ASH) said: “Smoking harms the immune system and our ability to fight off infections. Evidence is growing that smoking is associated with worse outcomes in those admitted to hospital with COVID-19.
“Quitting smoking also rapidly reduces people’s risk of other health problems such as heart attacks and strokes – those are bad whenever they happen, so preventing them is an end in itself, but it’s especially important at a time like now when everyone is keen to stay out of hospital.”
Rosanna O’Connor, acting Health Improvement Director, Public Health England said:
“Quitting smoking now will bring immediate benefits to your health, reducing the risk of heart and lung problems for you and those around you. That’s good news for smokers and good news for our NHS”
- The survey was conducted between 15th and 21st April. It was an online survey using the YouGov panel with 1004 respondents – [link]
- “The association of smoking status with SARS-CoV-2 infection, hospitalisation and mortality from COVID-19: A living rapid evidence review” by Simons, Brown, Shahab, and Perski – [link]