Smokers want to quit to help the health system during COVID

It’s always a good time to quit, but COVID is making smokers think about doing it sooner rather than later. And many want to quit for other people, not just themselves.

According to a new study from The George Institute for Global Health, many smokers want to know about their risks during COVID, and many want to quit to avoid being an additional source of stress on the health system at this time. 

The analysis of data from 1,500 smokers in Australia, New Zealand, and the UK, published in the Journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research today, found that:

  • Smokers found messages encouraging them to quit during COVID to be acceptable, believable, and personally relevant.
  • 44% of respondents chose to access additional information about their COVID-related risks as a smoker when given the opportunity to do so.
  • The largest increase in quit intentions was found in response to information highlighting the benefits of quitting to reduce the pressure on the health system during COVID. This information worked better overall than messages focused on smokers’ own physical health or financial well-being.

Lead author Professor Simone Pettigrew from The George Institute for Global Health said COVID represents an important opportunity to provide smokers with the motivation and assistance to quit for good.

“There is strong awareness in the community that smoking increases people’s risk of diseases such as stroke and cancer, but COVID is shining a light on how it also affects people’s immunity and their ability to recover from infectious diseases,” she said.

“COVID will be with us for a while to come, so now is the time to encourage and assist smokers to quit to reduce both their COVID risks and their increased susceptibility to numerous other diseases. We already know that most smokers want to quit, and COVID seems to be providing an additional impetus through smokers’ concerns about the ability of the health system to cope with current demands.”