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Over a million people in the UK have stopped smoking during the Covid-19 pandemic


By Isabel Shaw
Reporter

15 Jul 2020

Over one million people have given up smoking since the Covid-19 pandemic hit the UK, new data suggests.

The survey, carried out on behalf of charity Action on Smoking Health (ASH), also found that 440,000 smokers have tried to kick the habit during this period.

It comes after the government advised smokers to quit, after evidence emerged that smokers who have Covid-19 are at a higher risk than non-smokers of severe illness and death.

‘Higher quit rates for young people’

Analysis of the data, which was collected between 15 April and 20 June and looked into 10,000 people’s smoking habits, showed young people to be quitting at a much greater rate than older people.

Nearly 400,000 people aged 16 to 29 have quit within the last four months, compared with only 240,000 people over the age of 50, it found.

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of ASH, said that even though ‘over a million smokers may have succeeded in stopping smoking since Covid-19 hit Britain, millions more have carried on smoking.’

Respiratory medicine consultant, Dr Ruth Sharrock added: ‘Every day of my working life I see the terrible health problems caused by smoking. But I have also been inspired by those already suffering from smoking related diseases, who have still managed to quit and get health benefits from this. My message to smokers today is, please, do not wait.’

A regional breakdown of the figures showed the north west of England had the highest number of quitters in the whole of England, with over102,000 smokers quitting since the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

Wales and the East Midlands saw the smallest quit rates in the UK with only 8% of smokers saying they had kicked the habit during the crisis.

Surge in smoking cessation services in pharmacies

Earlier in the pandemic, Sunil K Kochhar, the independent prescriber and owner of Regent Pharmacy in Gravesend, told the Pharmacist he had seen an ‘influx of patients [since March] coming into [the] pharmacy wanting to quit smoking.’

He said: ‘The demand has skyrocketed. I’ve had to start offering the smoking cessation service virtually to serve the demand.

‘I think in many ways coronavirus has been a big wake-up call for them.’

Paul Mayberry, Managing Director of the Mayberry Pharmacy Group in South Wales, also confirmed the surge in demand for smoking cessation products across his own seven pharmacies in South Wales.

Graham Toms, Chief Executive Officer at PharmaDoctor, told the Pharmacist that he had seen an increase in demand from pharmacies for smoking cessation services since the outbreak of the virus.


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