Survey of smokers and vapers in the US during COVID
During the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic caused by the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), some people are at greater risk of developing serious complications.
Some of these include the elderly, people with underlying health conditions, and people with weakened immune systems. Previous studies have also linked cigarette smoking as a risk factor for SARS-CoV-2 infection.
Given concerns that cigarette smoking is a risk factor for serious illnesses due to COVID-19, understanding nicotine and tobacco use patterns is critical to preventive action.
Massachusetts General Hospital researchers wanted to understand the changes in cigarette and e-cigarette consumption behavior among adults in the United States. They found that a third of cigarette smokers and a quarter of vape or e-cigarette users increased their consumption during the pandemic, mainly due to stress.
Meanwhile, 26 percent and 41 percent of cigarette smokers and e-cigarette users respectively said they tried to quit smoking during the pandemic. Users perceive that their use of these products increases their risk of COVID-19 or a more severe outcome of the infection.
The coronavirus pandemic is far from over. As it continues to pose a threat to health systems, management of potentially modifiable factors associated with the risk of serious illness or death is essential to prevention efforts. This includes smoking cigarettes.
Smoking increases the risk of viral and bacterial infections of the respiratory tract. It’s also been linked to worse outcomes for those infected with SARS-CoV-2. It is also known that cigarette smoke decreases the respiratory immune system and the behavioral aspect of smoking, such as movement from hand to mouth, can contribute to increased virus transmission.
Previous findings and health organizations have classified smoking as a risk factor for serious illnesses due to SARS-CoV-2 infection. Meanwhile, there is a lack of data on the relationship between e-cigarette use and COVID-19 outcomes. However, there have been concerns that vaping could be linked to an increased risk of COVID-19 in younger people.
It is important to understand certain issues with COVID-19 and smoking, including the relationship of smoking to protective behavior. Understanding these factors can help assess clinical risk, develop health news, and identify goals for interventions.
In order to get to the study results, which were published on the pre-print server medRxiv *, the team carried out a cross-sectional survey among 1,024 adults over the age of 18 who reported the consumption of cigarettes or e-cigarettes after 6 months .
You have been recruited to participate in the Amerispeak Panel study via mail, telephone, and field interviews.
The team found that 45 percent of smokers reported no change in cigarette smoking, while 33 percent increased cigarette smoking since the onset of COVID-19 due to stress.
(a) Opinion on cigarette smoking and the risk of developing COVID-19 or of having a more severe result in cigarette smokers in the past 6 months. (b) Opinion on ecigarette use / vaporizing and the risk of getting COVID-19 or a more severe outcome among e-cigarette users / vapors in the past 6 months.
The researchers found factors contributing to different forms of stress – overall stress, financial problems, and increasing hours of work. All of this contributes to the increased use of flammable cigarettes.
In addition, the team found that higher levels of stress were associated with increased cigarette smoking. About 41 percent of e-cigarette users said their vaping had not changed, while 23 percent said their consumption was increasing. Additionally, 26 percent of cigarette smokers and 41 percent of e-cigarette smokers tried to quit because of COVID-19.
“The study results highlight the range of behavioral responses users of addictive products had in response to an ongoing pandemic,” the researchers found in the study.
Overall, the team found that the survey provides insight into smoking among people during the pandemic and how they perceive quitting.
“Reaching out to smokers and e-cigarette users to help them quit smoking during this time can help encourage abandonment attempts and reduce stress-related increases in product use,” the team added.
The team also recommended proactive provision of smoking cessation assistance to help people who wish to quit smoking. The support can help reduce stress-related increases in product consumption during the pandemic.
* Important NOTE
medRxiv publishes preliminary scientific reports that are not peer-reviewed and therefore should not be considered conclusive, guide clinical practice / health-related behavior, or be treated as established information.