A new survey shows that adult smoking rates climbed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
CINCINNATI — According to a survey conducted by local public health researchers, adults in the communities surrounding Cincinnati, Ohio, saw an increase in smoking due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts on lockdown and isolation policies.
“Tobacco use is still one of the leading causes of preventable illness, premature death, lost productivity and increased health care costs,” said Kelley Adcock, the director of research and evaluation at Interact for Health — a local research nonprofit organization.
The survey was implemented by Interact for Health, in collaboration with the University of Cincinnati Institute for Policy Research. According to Newsweek, the surveys peered into people’s habits and behaviors during the pandemic and found tobacco use in the local area actually increase after more than twenty years of declines.
“For years, progress in Greater Cincinnati to reduce tobacco use has lagged behind the nation,” Adcock said. “In addition, certain groups continue to bear a disproportionate burden of tobacco-related harm in the region. The Greater Cincinnati COVID-19 Health Issues Survey’s findings reinforce that tobacco use is still a top health concern in our region, and provides an opportunity for us to take action.”
The stress of the pandemic, ultimately, was an indicative factor of an increase in smoking. Tobacco use among adults declined from 35 percent in 1999 to 19 percent in 2018. The COVID-19 pandemic stalled progress to reduce tobacco use in the immediate region. When asked how smoking habits changed during the pandemic, 23 percent of respondent adult smokers in the region said they smoked more frequently, while 9 percent who had quit started smoking again.
“While the extent of increased tobacco use in our region due to COVID-19 is not yet fully known, we do know that increased stress, isolation and financial burdens all contribute to changes in tobacco use,” said Megan Folkerth, a senior program officer for Interact for Health. “We also want to reduce tobacco use among adults in the region who have historically used at higher rates—including people with lower incomes, people living in rural areas, African Americans, people with substance use disorder and the LGBTQ+ community —often due to social, environmental and policy factors.”