Cigar smokers have increased their tobacco use – despite saying they intended to quit over health fears linked to COVID-19.
This is according to a new study carried out by researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
An online survey found the majority of participants intended to quit smoking due to the increased health risks if they contracted coronavirus.
Despite this, more than twice as many reported an increase in their use of tobacco since the beginning of the pandemic.
Spike in tobacco use
The team analysed cigar smokers’ perceived risk of COVID-19, quit intentions, and behaviours during the pandemic.
The results showed more respondents reported increasing their tobacco use since COVID-19 started (40.9%). In comparison, 17.8% reported decreasing their tobacco use.
Additionally, almost half (46.5%) of the respondents reported attempting to quit smoking since the start of the pandemic. And 70.8% planned to quit within six months.
The findings appeared in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health,
Stress or boredom?
‘We are not sure why many participants reported increasing their tobacco use,’ said Sarah Kowitt, the paper’s first author.
‘But it is possible that they are stressed or anxious, they are bored at home, or they stockpiled tobacco products in advance of sheltering-in-place orders. Additionally, they are not able to easily access evidence-based cessation resources like pharmacotherapy or behavioural support.’
She added: ‘A growing body of research suggests tobacco users, compared to non-users, may be at greater risk for experiencing COVID-19 complications. It is critical that we identify opportunities and approaches to encourage tobacco users to consider quitting.
‘We need to provide them with the support they need to quit successfully.’
The study also found that certain participants had higher intentions of quitting tobacco use in response to COVID-19. Additionally, they were more likely to make an attempt at quitting since the pandemic began.
This includes black or African American participants, those who used a Quitline (a telephone-based tobacco cessation service), and also those with higher COVID-19 risk perceptions.
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