“It would appear smokers have chosen to allocate more of their discretionary spend towards tobacco.”
Public health experts have long predicted that the stress brought about by the Covid situation would have a negative impact on smoking rates. “As the world goes into lockdown, social distancing and self-isolation are likely to make the society very lonely and life more stressful,” said Pooja Patwardhan, Medical Director at the centre for Health Research, and member of the Royal College of General Practitioners.

Patwardhan had listed her arguments in the paper titled “COVID-19: Risk of increase in smoking rates among England’s 6 million smokers and relapse among England’s 11 million ex-smokers,” and many other public health experts concurred, sharing their views aswell. To this effect, many experts had spoken up against making nicotine safer alternatives unavailable particularly at this time, due to this feared spike in smoking.

Spending less on going out and more on cigarettes

Sadly, full-year results released by Imperial Brands’ (IMBBY) confirmed these fears. “It would appear smokers have chosen to allocate more of their discretionary spend towards tobacco,” said Imperial in a release. “More time spent at home has resulted in consumers reducing expenditure in certain areas, such as holidays or going out.”

Lockdowns, restrictions on travel and a boost from fiscal stimulus measures in “several markets” resulted in changes in consumer behaviour, said the company as quoted by Yahoo Finance, meaning a “slightly better market size trends for the group overall.” Imperial added that a strategic review is currently underway, and the results can be expected to be released by the end of January 2021.

In line with these data, an earlier representative study of about 2,000 people conducted between the 30th of April and the 13th of May in YouGov’s Covid-19 tracker, had found that approximately 2.2 million people in the UK were smoking more than usual during the pandemic. A further 4.8 million were thought to be smoking the same amount as before, and 1.9 million were believed to have cut down.

Majority of smokers who quit were young adults

However, according to new data released by the nonprofit Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), from a study conducted between April 15 to June 20, over one million people in Britain have given up smoking.

Of these, almost half (41%) said that deciding to quit was a direct response to heightened health concerns brought about by the pandemic. The ASH report found that of the 1 million people who quit between April and June, 400,000 were aged between 16 and 25, meaning that younger people were more likely to quit than their older counterparts.

“For young people who have been quitting, there’s a desire to generally be more healthy, and take control at a time in their lives where that control has been taken away,” said Hazel Cheeseman, the policy director for ASH.

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