Study Finds The COVID-19 Pandemic Led To A Decline In Smoking Cessation

According to a recent study in JAMA Network Open, the number of people who tried to give up smoking in 2020 decreased by 2.9% compared to 2019. The study attributed these drops to the spread of COVID-19 across the United States. The results were part of a 10-year study tracking almost 800,000 people, who said they smoked every day or most days of the week. The biggest dip in attempts to quit occurred in April, May, and June of 2020, falling by 3.4% compared to the same months in 2019. Since 2011, the number of people who have successfully given up smoking has significantly increased.

The study also looked at sales of nicotine replacement therapies, such as nicotine gum, lozenges, and patches. Sales of these products in 2020 also decreased by 13% compared to the expected sales and continued to drop until the start of 2021. However, sales began to pick up during April, May, and June of 2021.

The results of this study coincide with smoking cessation quitlines. According to the North American Quitline Consortium, calls to quit smoking dipped from February to June 2020 and continued to trend low in 2021. The calls rebounded to pre-pandemic levels by March and April of 2021.

Quitting depends on the type of cigarettes

This recent study somewhat contradicts an earlier 2022 review in BMJ Open. It suggested that those who smoked cigarettes were more likely to want to give up smoking during the COVID-19 pandemic. The study differentiated cigarette smokers, e-cigarette smokers, and smokers who used both types of nicotine products. Those who solely smoked cigarettes felt more at risk of getting COVID-19, and they subsequently wanted to quit. They were also more likely to quit if they were aware of how smoking makes them increasingly vulnerable to disease. This result was more prominent if the cigarette smoker was older.

On the other hand, the study found e-cigarette use increased during COVID-19. Because these users believed e-cigarettes were less harmful and somewhat of an alternative to cigarettes, they were less likely to quit during the pandemic. The study also found that those who smoked both cigarettes and e-cigarettes also tended to buy their cigarettes in bulk, which also added to their increased use.