William Eichler 15 April 2021

Pandemic drives increase in ‘stress-smoking’

Pandemic drives increase in ‘stress-smoking’ image

COVID-19 has led to more than half of smokers ‘stress-smoking’ more and 10% lighting up again after quitting, a survey suggests.

Analysts at Mintel surveyed 1,935 adults aged over 18 in October and found that the stress of the pandemic was fuelling Britain's nicotine habit.

They found that 39% of smokers aged 18-34 are now smoking more regularly and that a further 10% of all smokers have started smoking again after quitting.

Overall, 30% of smokers are smoking more regularly since the start of the pandemic and more than four in 10 e-cigarette users (42%) are vaping more regularly too.

Two thirds of Britain's smokers (65%) say they are worried that the virus is more dangerous to them as a smoker, according to Mintel’s research.

A further seven in 10 (69%) say that their respiratory health is more important to them now than before the COVID-19 outbreak.

Roshida Khanom, category director of Mintel Beauty and Personal Care, said: ‘The pandemic has elevated stress levels, and amongst smokers this has seen an increase in smoking frequency.

‘There has been a peak amongst young smokers where increased unemployment and job uncertainty is likely to have driven rates. These added stressors may be the reason for the disconnect between smokers' health concerns and their habits: despite seven in 10 (69%) considering their respiratory health more important to them, smoking rates are up.

‘Smoking is seen as a small vice, especially during these times when there is little else to distract people. While the easing of lockdown restrictions will tackle loneliness and boredom, two factors that have boosted smoking rates, it will take more to reverse the habits developed during the prolonged periods of lockdown.’

Hazel Cheeseman, director of policy at the charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), commented: ‘The pandemic has been a wakeup call for many of us about our health. A million smokers were galvanised to quit during the first lockdown, but as this research shows, some will have relapsed and those who didn’t stop may now be smoking more.

‘Every smoker should know help is out there to stop and, that although quitting can be stressful to start with, after only a few weeks ex-smokers experience improved wellbeing as much or greater than if they were taking anti-depressants.’

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