Posted on Aug 07, 2020, 4 p.m.
Some old habits appear to die hard, even during an outbreak, as according to a recent survey published in International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 40% of cigar smokers are lighting up more now since the beginning of the global concern.
In the recent study of around 800 cigar smokers asking how COVID-19 is influencing their smoking habits some surprising results regarding their habits were revealed. Although many reported they had intended to quit smoking cigars due to related concerns, most report that they are actually smoking more since the outbreak began.
“We are not sure why many participants reported increasing their tobacco use, but it is possible that they are stressed or anxious, they are bored at home, they stockpiled tobacco products in advance of sheltering-in-place orders, or they are not able to easily access evidence-based cessation resources like pharmacotherapy or behavioral support,” says first study author Sarah Kowitt, PhD, MPH, an assistant professor in the UNC School of Medicine Department of Family Medicine.
All involved respondents had smoked at least one cigar over the previous month, and most report also indulging in other tobacco products as well. 66% of the respondents were white, 48.9% were women, and the average participant age was 39 years old. The number of respondents who reported smoking cigars more often since the beginning of the outbreak (40.9%) more than doubles the number of those who reported cutting back (17.8%).
Three groups were noted to generally report stronger intentions to quit smoking cigars, and they consequently had better odds of making a legitimate attempt to cut back on their smoking habits. The three groups were: Africian Americans; those utilizing the quitline telephone service; and those who are at an increased risk for severe COVID-19 symptoms.
46.5% of the participants report trying to quit since the outbreak began, and another 70.8% report that they are planning on quitting within the next six months. According to the researchers these numbers suggest that public health officials should make a push for more anti-smoking support groups and resources as it is well known that a desire to quit is often not enough when it comes to stopping tobacco dependency. The team suggests that more widespread access to nicotine replacement therapy, virtual support from counselors, and more robust mental health resources should be made available.
“It is important, especially during the pandemic, that we provide support for tobacco users who want to quit smoking,” Kowitt concludes. “A growing body of research suggests that tobacco users, compared to non-users, may be at greater risk for experiencing COVID-19 complications, so it is critical that we identify opportunities and approaches to encourage tobacco users to consider quitting and to provide them the support they need to quit successfully.”
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