Of course, these figures are not surprising and are precisely why countless public health experts had argued that closing vape shops whilst leaving regular cigarettes available for sale, would spell disaster. A UK paper published on BJGP Open had in fact warned that the outbreak of COVID-19 risked increasing smoking rates amongst current and former smokers.
The uncertaintly and stress brought about by the pandemic led to many relapses
“With my experience of working in preventive medicine and smoking cessation, the uncertainty and the stress might push current smokers to smoke more cigarettes and ex-smokers to relapse back to smoking. A perfect (bad) storm for relapsing and smoking more,” added Patwardhan.
She pointed out that the numerous direct or indirect fears and stresses brought about by the pandemic increase the odds of conditions such as anxiety and depression. Such conditions and even stress are well known predisposing factors for increased smoking (quantity and frequency) as well as relapse.
In addition to these, there are secondary factors at play that one must consider. “There may be people who have cut down smoking as they are not allowed to smoke in their workplace. There will be ex-smokers who have successfully quit smoking by going to the gym or joining a local sports group to help them. There may be some, who have stopped smoking by taking up a new job or starting a new business. These — and so many other ways that people may have used to shift towards a healthier lifestyle — may suddenly be unavailable and inaccessible in their lives.”
To this effect, explained Patwardhan, it is imperative that healthcare professionals look for “‘smoker’ or ‘ex-smoker’ status on every patient’s medical records system.” She explained that patients in this category should be offered advice on relapse prevention, and GPs could send a text message/ email to all patients known to be smokers or ex-smokers, directing them to resources such as the NHS Smokefree website (NHS Smokefree).
UK smokers consumed more cigarettes during lockdown
In line with these arguments, a UK survey conducted by the Guardian had indeed indicated that about 2.2 million people in the UK, may be smoking more than usual during the coronavirus crisis. The representative study of about 2,000 people was conducted between the 30th of April and the 13th of May in YouGov’s Covid-19 tracker.
Meanwhile, Imperial said it expected its full-year net revenue to be broadly flat, as a 1% increase in its cigarette sales is sadly offsetting a 30% drop in its “next generation products” such as e-cigarettes. To this effect, the firm said that it will be reducing its investment in safer alternatives.
Read Further: Reuters