Pandemic leads to increase in ‘stress smoking’

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More than half of smokers are ‘stress smoking’ or smoking more because of extra strain brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, research has suggested.

Some 30% of smokers have said they are lighting up more regularly since the pandemic began and 10% have revisited the habit after quitting, according to a survey of 1,935 by market research company Mintel.

Young people in particular were turning to cigarettes to alleviate feelings of stress, with 39% of smokers aged 18 to 34 stating they were now smoking more regularly.

The increase is not just limited to cigarette smokers: 42% of e-cigarette users said they are “vaping” more regularly.

However, many of those polled recognised the effect their habit could have on health outcomes if they contracted Covid-19. Sixty-five per cent said they are worried that the virus is more dangerous to them as a smoker and 69% felt their respiratory health was more important to them now than before the coronavirus outbreak.

“Smoking is seen as a small vice, especially during these times when there is little else to distract people,” said Roshinda Khanom, category director at Mintel Beauty and Personal Care.

“While the easing of lockdown restrictions will tackle loneliness and boredom, two factors that have boosted smoking rates, it will take more to reverse the habits developed during the prolonged periods of lockdown.”

Khanom noted that access to smoking cessation advice and help via pharmacies had been limited during the pandemic.

Hazel Cheeseman, director of policy at the charity Action on Smoking and Health, said that, although a million people quit smoking during the first lockdown, the research shows many have relapsed.

“Every smoker should know help is out there to stop and, that although quitting can be stressful to start with, after only a few weeks ex-smokers experience improved wellbeing as much or greater than if they were taking anti-depressants,” she said.

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