The year 2020 will forever be remembered as the year COVID-19 abruptly halted many of the usual activities of daily life and kept people locked down at home to help stop the spread of a serious disease that took the lives of so many. But there were some silver linings to be found during the pandemic – more time at home with family, an opportunity for reflection, and for many, the chance to make healthier lifestyle choices. According to a recent survey, smokers quit in the highest numbers in a decade since the coronavirus started sweeping across the United Kingdom.
The BBC recently reported that more than one million people have given up smoking since the pandemic hit and about half said COVID played a role in their decision to quit. Concerns over health, limited access to tobacco, and a loss of social smoking are cited as factors that contributed to more people quitting.
Using data from the Zoe Covid Symptom Tracker app, smokers who tested positive for COVID-19 were found to be twice as likely to be hospitalized as non-smokers with coronavirus infection.
Research from the United States found smokers hospitalized with COVID were 1.8 times more likely to die. Smoking was also associated with a greater chance of developing a fever, persistent cough, and shortness of breath as a result of coronavirus infection.
Even with vaccines and boosters, COVID-19 breakthrough cases are possible and the virus is likely going to be with us for some time to come. Older adults and people with underlying health conditions are more vulnerable to becoming seriously ill from infection but stopping smoking can help reduce the risk for hospitalization and death.
According to Action on Smoking & Health (ASH), it’s important to create a support group to help increase the odds of success in smoking cessation. Online groups, phone and texting services, nicotine replacement products, meditation, and regular exercise can also make quitting less challenging. Follow this link to the UCSF Smoking Cessation Leadership Center for more resources and information.