Tobacco Consumption May Have Declined in 2020 and We Can ‘Thank’ Coronavirus for it

Experts believe that the pandemic has possibly had an effect on the dropping number of smokers in England.

© Brian A Jackson / Shutterstock.

Experts believe that the pandemic has possibly had an effect on the dropping number of smokers in England.

© Brian A Jackson / Shutterstock.

The finding could be explained by the lack of socialization during the lockdown period, but also — and above all — by the desire of everyone to preserve their health in this period of the pandemic.

  • AFP
  • Last Updated: September 22, 2020, 9:22 AM IST

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Has the global health crisis had a positive impact on tobacco consumption worldwide? This is the question some are asking in light of the latest data from the UCL Smoking Toolkit Study, which shows a dramatic increase in the success rate of smoking cessation in England in one year. This finding could be explained by the lack of socialization during the lockdown period, but also — and above all — by the desire of everyone to preserve their health in this period of the pandemic.

While several prevention and stop smoking campaigns will soon be launched around the world, including “Stoptober” in England and “Tobacco Free Month” in France, figures show a sharp decline in the number of smokers in the UK, which may be attributed to effects of the pandemic. The success rate in quitting among those who tried to stop smoking fell from 14.2% in 2019 to 23.2% in August 2020, the highest percentage for more than a decade — the figures presented in the study originated in 2007.


Smoking prevalence figures in England are also at the lowest according to the same study, while Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) estimates that around 1 million people quit smoking during the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK. While prevention campaigns have contributed to a decrease in the number of smokers, experts believe that the coronavirus is a major contributor to the declines observed in recent months. Not only would lockdowns have allowed some to quit smoking due to the lack of social activity, but the heightened desire to be healthy would also explain these significant rates of success in quitting smoking.

Encouraging numbers

There is not enough hindsight at this time to determine whether the pandemic is having a significant impact on the number of smokers in the world. While the data are encouraging for England, they are non-existent for other countries or do not cover the year 2020. This is the case for the latest figures revealed on vaping in the United States. According to the annual National Youth Tobacco Survey, the US has seen a significant drop of nearly 2 million vapers between the ages of 11 and 18, but the questionnaires were received before the start of the pandemic.

Prevention campaigns are increasingly being used

Pandemic or not, public authorities will not put on hold the various prevention and stop smoking campaigns that habitually mark the end of the year. This is the case of “Stoptober” in England, which will encourage smokers to quit for 28 days in October, and “Tobacco Free Month,” which is based on the same principle in France, but in November. The objective? To give smokers all the tools they need to give up cigarettes with the idea that it is easier to quit definitively after a month without smoking. According to France’s public health authorities, more than 200,000 people participated in the operation in 2019.



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