Around 300,000 smokers have #QuitforCovid

#QuitForCovid - Today is the Day

 

Magpie, Public Health and the charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) lead a national quit smoking campaign as 300,000 smokers #QuitforCovid. 

New figures revealed today show that at least 300,000 people have quit smoking successfully, a further 550,000 have tried to quit and 2.4 million have cut down on the amount of cigarettes they smoke due to growing concerns around coronavirus (COVID-19) and the increased risk smokers face.

These estimates are based on findings from the UK arm of YouGov’s international COVID-19 Tracker [1]. They come as evidence is showing that smokers in hospital who have coronavirus are at a higher risk than non-smokers of severe illness [2].

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 [3] and respiratory clinicians. The Association of Directors of Public Health has now 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.”

Magpie has managed behaviour change campaigns such as todayistheday to encourage a reduction in smoking for many years, speaking about the recent evidence Becky Edlin, Co-Founder at Magpie said:

“We are delighted that our collective campaigning work is having a positive impact on the 2.4 million people who have cut down on smoking. It’s never too late to quit. From the moment you quit your body starts to repair itself. If you are trying to quit you don’t have to go it alone. The #QuitforCOVID campaign is encouraging smokers to seek help with their quit attempts by visiting the campaign site www.todayistheday.co.uk and asking questions of leading experts by tweeting @QuitforCOVID in a daily Quit Clinic.” 

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 now 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 [4] who are now ex-smokers because of concerns over COVID-19 [5].
  • 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. [5]
  • 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 [5].
  • 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 Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) which 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 [6].

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”

One area seeing more enquiries from smokers to the stop smoking service is Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The service has seen a 20% increase in clients as a result of COVID-19 [7].

Smokers can find out how to get help with their quit attempts by visiting todayistheday and ask questions of leading experts by tweeting @QuitforCOVID

Notes

For further information including a set of FAQs or to get further comment from national experts please contact Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive, ASH on 07976 935 987 deborah.arnott@ash.org.uk

Case studies of people who have quit as a result of fears about COVID-19 are available on request. To inquire about case studies please contact Anna Hodgson at Gardiner Richardson on 07970 729758 annah@gardiner-richardson.com

[1]       The survey was conducted between 15th and 21st April. It was an online survey using the YouGov panel with 1004 respondents. For more information on the YouGov Covid Tracker see: https://yougov.co.uk/topics/international/articles-reports/2020/03/17/YouGov-international-COVID-19-tracker

[2]       Simons D., Brown J., Shahab L., Perski O. The association of smoking status with SARS-CoV-2 infection, hospitalisation and mortality from COVID-19: A living rapid evidence review. Update 23 April 2020. https://www.qeios.com/read/UJR2AW

[3]       The Smokefree Action Coalition is a coalition of over 300 organisations committed to ending the harm caused by smoking https://smokefreeaction.org.uk/

[4]       Ex-smokers includes anyone who has ever smoked and since quit. They made up 31% of respondents to the survey.

[5]       Calculations are by Dr Leonie Brose at National Addictions Centre, King’s College London. The proportions in the YouGov survey are applied to the most recent available ONS population estimates for UK, England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland:

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/populationandmigration/populatione stimates/bulletins/annualmidyearpopulationestimates/mid2018

[6]       Royal College of Physicians. Hiding in plain sight: treating tobacco dependency in the NHS.London: RCP, 2018. https://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/file/10116/download

[7]       Rachel Nichol, CGL Project Manager Newcastle Stop Smoking Service, said: “The hub service has seen about a 20% increase in number of clients accessing the service as a result of COVID-19. We normally have between 180-200 clients on our caseload at any one time. We currently have 242 and we continue to receive referrals every day.

“Everyone is obviously anxious about COVID-19 but many smokers coming into our service right now are telling us they are worried about the additional risks of getting worse symptoms from coronavirus if you smoke and are telling us that this as a reason for stopping.

“At present, clients in treatment who are worried about coronavirus seem to be more determined to stay with the programme and therefore more committed to staying quit. As a result, early data indicates that we have a reduced drop-out rate.

“However, we know people often cite stress as a reason to smoke and advisers are also reporting some clients say they feel too anxious to stay quit. We are reminding people that now is a really important time to stop and that in the long term, quitting is proven to improve mood and reduces anxiety as well as improvements in health and saving money.”