Lockdown Teen Smoking Soared

Posted 9th September 2021 by Dave Cross
Latest findings from about smoking in England from a study published in the journal Addiction, conducted by academics at University College London and the University of Sheffield, shows a soaring rise in the number of teens using tobacco during the first pandemic lockdown.

The study (1) found that smoking rose in young adults by around 25% during Covid lockdown. The home-bound smokers also demonstrated a change and they discovered that hundreds of thousands of individuals smoked more tobacco products.

Cancer Research UK (CRUK) estimates: “652,000 more young adults smoking compared to before the pandemic”.

There’s no ‘safe’ level of smoking or drinking, and stopping smoking or cutting down drinking will help to reduce your risk of cancer” – Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive

CRUK says, “the researchers also found that the number of high-risk drinkers rose by 40%, meaning that, during the first lockdown, over 4.5 million adults would be classed as high-risk drinkers. This trend was particularly worrying in women (up 55%) as well as people from lower socioeconomic groups (up 64%).

While the study doesn’t explain why these changes occurred, researchers suggest it’s possible that some may have taken up these up for the first time or relapsed to help them ‘cope’.”

The Daily Telegraph sent out a reporter to speak to two teen smokers. They both said they were smoking because they were stressed and bored during lockdown.


CRUK believes that “the surge among young adults cannot be ignored” ahead of the Government publishing its Tobacco Control Plan to help deliver its goal for England to become smoke-free by 2030. The charity says we now need smokers to switch or quit 40% faster for the government to hit its target.

Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, believes that the upcoming tobacco control plan for England is a key opportunity for the Government to reduce smoking rates, but this can only be achieved with sufficient investment.

Public health campaigns and prevention services have a vital role to play in helping people to quit and also maintaining the motivation of those who have already made positive changes.”

She said: “A Smokefree Fund – using tobacco industry funds, but without industry interference – could pay for the comprehensive measures needed to prevent people from starting to smoke and helping those who do, to quit.”

Dr Sarah Jackson, lead author from UCL, said: “"The first lockdown was unprecedented in the way it changed people's day-to-day lives.


"We found that many smokers took this opportunity to stop smoking, which is fantastic. However, the first lockdown was also a period of great stress for many people, and we saw rates of smoking and risky drinking increase among groups hardest hit by the pandemic

"It will be important to keep a close eye on how these increases in smoking and drinking develop over time to ensure appropriate support is made accessible for anyone who needs it."

Teen smokers were denied access to harm reduction products during the lockdown as the Government mandated vape shops remained closed.


  1. Moderators of changes in smoking, drinking and quitting behaviour associated with the first COVID-19 lockdown in England by Jackson, Beard, Angus, Field, and Brown - https://doi.org/10.1111/add.15656

Image by karosieben from Pixabay

 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, motorbikes, and dog walker