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Has COVID-19 stress and uncertainty stopped the fight against smoking?

WASHINGTON (AP) – A year after COVID-19 wiped out the lives of millions of Americans, there are disturbing signs that the coronavirus could also slow progress against another health threat, smoking.

Last year, fewer smokers called smoking cessation hotlines, and some smoked more, contributing to the unusual crackdown on tobacco sales, all in the midst of epidemic stress, anxiety and uncertainty.

“People find it hard to quit smoking at their best, so what happens when life suddenly turns upside down?” said Cash, which oversees Minnesota anti-tobacco programs.

Researchers are already concerned about the effects of COVID-19 on cancer screening and opioid overdose, as many Americans have been cut off from routine care and screening. But to help quit smoking, services provided over the phone և online seem to be in a good position to deal with the epidemic. Programs help with program development, often providing free nicotine gum and patches.

Calls to countries through the national hotline fell 27% last year to about 500,000, the biggest drop in a decade, according to the North American Quitline Consortium. In a recent report, a coalition of anti-smoking consultants noted the epidemic and the decline in public awareness messages.

“It ‘s really disturbing to see that the exit line bells have dropped so much because they’re exactly what I was hoping they would go up,” said Nancy Rigotti, a Harvard Medical School doctor who was not included in the report.

In a separate study of 1,000 adult smokers, Rigotin և and his colleagues found that about a third reported more smoking during the first six months of the epidemic.

Los Angeles’ Ally Comstack had been out of smoking for seven years when he lost his child care job due to an epidemic last March. Faced with his first period of long-term unemployment, he resumed smoking due to a combination of boredom and anxiety.

“I just thought he had to do something else to make me feel calmer,” said Comstock, 32, adding that he knew cigarettes containing nicotine did not help alleviate anxiety.

Eventually, Comstock resigned, feeling for months that “we are in a time when it does not matter.”

“In November I realized that it mattered that I was a smoker, I did not want to be like that,” he said.

The study linked other traumatic events to relapses among ex-smokers, including after the 9/11 attacks.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it is too early to assess the impact of the epidemic on smoking levels. The CDC said in a statement that although tobacco sales had gained momentum since the first blockade last March, they had fallen to previous levels. This indicates that most smokers collected cigarettes.

Smoking rates in the United States have been stable in recent years, at about 14%, after a decline of more than 40% in the 1960s. Sm, which can cause cancer, stroke and heart attack, is estimated to cause an estimated 480,000 deaths a year.

Because smoking is associated with many other forms of addiction, data on withdrawal attempts are closely monitored by physicians who treat people who use drugs or alcohol, many of whom suffer from depression and anxiety.

Dr. Brian Harley, of the Los Angeles County Department of Health, says addicts recover less if they continue to smoke. “Last year’s drop in hotline calls suggests a ‘whirlwind of worse results,'” said Hurley, a board member of the American Society for Addiction Medicine.

It is very difficult to leave, however, և only 7% are successful, according to the CDC. Many smokers turn to smoking cessation hotlines during their annual checkups. Those appointments were mostly discontinued last spring, as well as with non-essential care.

Last year’s data on smoking cessation calls contain hints of positive news. Minnesota smokers who called the Minnesota Hotline smoke more, but they say they are closer to quitting because of COVID-19. Mirror data show that smokers are aware that smoking can make them more vulnerable to serious illness from coronavirus infection.

Experts trying to explain last year’s trends also point to the decline in anti-tobacco advertising campaigns in public health departments. In many cases, these actions have been replaced by messages about applying masks, social distance and hand washing.

The CDC recently relaunched its National Advice for Smokers advertising campaign, which conducts annual surveys of adult tobacco use among adolescents, the US, and the final picture of smoking’s evaporation.

Prior to the outbreak, the focus was on the alarming rise in e-cigarette use among high school and high school students. Research conducted before classrooms closed showed that teen evaporation was already falling by 2019, following new taste bans, raising the legal age to buy them.

Because teens are unable to attend school or interact with their peers on a regular basis, researchers believe that the epidemic could further slow the social spread of fumes.

“I feel it can have a positive effect on adolescent evaporation, but a negative effect on adult smoking,” Rigotti said.


Follow Matthew Perron on Twitter at @AP_FDAwriter


The Associated Press Department of Health and Science receives support from the Department of Science Education at Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The AP is solely responsible for all content.



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