More than 300,000 in the UK may have quit smoking during the coronavirus crisis as evidence mounts that the habit makes them more vulnerable to Covid-19, a survey suggests.
A further 550,000 have tried to quit, while 2.4 million have cut down, according to the joint study by YouGov and the campaign group Action on Smoking and Health (Ash).
The survey of 1,004 people suggested 2% of smokers had quit because of concerns about coronavirus; 8% were trying to quit; 36% had cut down; and 27% were now more likely to quit.
A quarter of former smokers said they were less likely to resume smoking, although 4% said the pandemic had made them more likely to relapse.
The results of the survey were welcomed by several health and anti-smoking organisations in a statement released by #QuitforCOVID Twitter campaign.
Dr Nick Hopkinson, the chairman of Ash who is also a respiratory specialist at Imperial College London, said: “Smoking harms the immune system and our ability to fight off infections. Evidence is growing that smoking is associated with worse outcomes in those admitted to hospital with Covid-19.
“Quitting smoking also rapidly reduces peoples risk of other health problems such as heart attacks and strokes. Those are bad whenever they happen, so preventing them is an end in itself and is especially important at a time like now when everyone is keen to stay out of hospital.”
Ruth Tennant, the tobacco lead for the Association of Directors of Public Health, said: “There are so many reasons to quit smoking but never a more important time than right now during the coronavirus pandemic.”
The founder of the #QuitforCOVID campaign urged more people to stop smoking during the pandemic and beyond.
“Stopping smoking remains the single biggest thing people can do to improve their overall health,” said Dr Charlie Kenward, a GP from Bristol. “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.”
Cllr Ian Hudspeth, the community wellbeing board chairman at the Local Government Association, said: “Councils can help the government to achieve its ambition of eliminating smoking in England by 2030, through their tobacco control and other public health and support services, but need certainty over their long-term funding to help do so.”