Smokers compromise their respiratory system, which is not great in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, scientists at UCL found that the percentage of people who reported stopping smoking more than doubled after the Covid-19 lockdown was implemented in March. However, there are bad news as well – high-risk drinking increased after lockdown.
Scientists analysed data collected between April 2019 and February 2020 and then in April 2020. There were 1,717 people participating in this study per month before the lockdown and 1,674 participated in April 2020. Scientists found that 29.1 % smokers tried quitting before lockdown and 39.6 % after. Furthermore, the number of those who completely ceased smoking more than doubled from 4.1% before lockdown to 8.8% in April 2020. Many smokers did it on their own, while others used some online resources.
Smoking is a social habit. You’ve probably noticed it in your place of work or education – people go out to smoke in groups. They use that opportunity to socialize and discuss some current events. One invites another and they go out to smoke. As COVID-19 locked everyone in their homes, the social aspect of smoking was gone. And many people used this as an opportunity to better themselves in some way, including quitting smoking. This is good news – it should ease the pressure on overwhelmed health care systems as well.
However, not all news is so positive. Scientists saw that at the same time high-risk drinking increased from 25.1 to 38.3 %. Furthermore, those who want to reduce their alcohol intake struggle to do it without face-to-face sessions with professionals or some anonymous groups. Professor Jamie Brown, one of the authors of the study, said: “The observed increase in high-risk drinking is a serious cause for concern and requires a public health response. <…> These findings also have a possible implication for the pandemic: excessive alcohol consumption may reduce vigilance around social distancing and adherence to other protective behaviours.”
Scientists are going to continue studying people’s behaviour during the lockdown. This is very important, because all health news are not being evaluated in the context of the ongoing pandemic. How will drinking behaviour change our response to the threat that COVID-19 is?
Also, it is very important to realize that we are going through a second wave of the pandemic. It will take some time to pass and there might be another wave in the future. People need to know that drinking is not going to help anything. And they should search for other ways to cope with stress, because damaging behaviour is just not sustainable.