Nationally at least 300,000 people have quit smoking successfully, a further 550,000 have tried to quit and 2.4 million have cut down on the amount of cigarettes they smoke due to growing concerns around coronavirus (COVID-19) and the increased risk smokers face.

These estimates are based on findings from the UK arm of YouGov’s international Covid Tracker [1]. They come as evidence shows that smokers in hospital who have coronavirus are at a higher risk than non-smokers of severe illness [2].

Around 17% of people in the Yorkshire and Humber smoke and smoking kills around 8,900 people in the Yorkshire and Humber each year [3].

The findings showing more smokers are ready to quit comes as the #QuitforCOVID campaign gathers pace nationally. #QuitforCOVID was launched on Twitter by Bristol-based family GP Dr Charlie Kenward and has been backed by the Smokefree Action Coalition [4], Breathe 2025 [5] and respiratory clinicians. The Association of Directors of Public Health has become the latest organisation to support calls for smokers to quit for COVID. Public Health England also back the calls, adding that quitting now can alleviate pressure on the NHS.

Dr Kenward said:

“Stopping smoking remains the single biggest thing people can do to improve their overall health. It will improve heart and lung health as well as reducing the chances of developing cancer and even improve wound healing after surgery.

“There has never been a better time to quit and with a wealth of resources available to support you, I urge people to take control of your health and stop smoking today.”

Smokers can find out how to get help with their quit attempts by visiting www.todayistheday.co.uk and ask questions of leading experts by tweeting @QuitforCOVID in a daily Twitter clinic. Smokers can also access support from their local stop smoking services many of which have switched to providing telephone support.

One area seeing more enquiries from smokers is Sheffield.  Sarah Hepworth, Tobacco Control Lead at Sheffield City Council, said:

“Following the national lockdown the Sheffield Stop Smoking Service saw an increase of 53% more smokers accessing the service for quit support than the previous year. During April the demand for the service has continued and we have had to increase the number of telephone clinics in response to this demand. Many smokers have told our advisors they are worried and want to quit because of COVID-19.

“In addition, the Smokefree Sheffield website has had over 1,878 people visit during in April, seeking information on smoking, with the most viewed page being our ‘Quit for Covid’ page. Compared to the same time last year this is 130% increase in visitors to the site. This shows that smokers have been receptive to and have engaged with our QuitforCovid campaign.”

The full release can be read here. 

[1] The survey was conducted between 15th and 21st April. It was an online survey using the YouGov panel with 1004 respondents. For more information on the YouGov Covid Tracker see: https://yougov.co.uk/topics/international/articles-reports/2020/03/17/YouGov-international-COVID-19-tracker

[2] Simons D., Brown J., Shahab L., Perski O. The association of smoking status with SARS-CoV-2 infection, hospitalisation and mortality from COVID-19: A living rapid evidence review. Update 23 April 2020. https://www.qeios.com/read/UJR2AW

[3] Public Health England, Local Tobacco Control Profiles: https://fingertips.phe.org.uk/profile/tobacco-control/data#page/3/gid/1938132887/pat/6/par/E12000005/ati/102/are/E08000025/iid/113/age/202/sex/4/cid/4/page-options/ovw-tdo-0_car-do-0

[4] The Smokefree Action Coalition is a coalition of over 300 organisations committed to ending the harm caused by smoking https://smokefreeaction.org.uk/

[5] Breathe 2025 is a campaign to tackle smoking in Yorkshire and Humber https://breathe2025.org.uk/

[4] Ex-smokers includes anyone who has ever smoked and since quit. They made up 31% of respondents to the survey.

[5] Calculations are by Dr Leonie Brose at National Addictions Centre, King’s College London. The proportions in the YouGov survey are applied to the most recent available ONS population estimates for UK, England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/populationandmigration/populationestimates/bulletins/annualmidyearpopulationestimates/mid2018