'Surge in motivation' sees 300,000 smokers kick the habit

MOUNTING evidence that smokers are more at risk from Covid-19 has promoted a “surge in motivation” to quit with 300,000 Britons kicking the habit during the coronavirus crisis, a survey suggests.

There is mounting evidence that smoking leaves people them more vulnerable to Covid-19.. Picture: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

One Yorkshire stop smoking service has seen visits to its website increase by 130 per cent as experts say there has “never been a better time to quit”.

A further 550,000 Britons have tried to quit, while 2.4 million have cut down, according to the study, by the UK arm of YouGov's international Covid-19 tracker and anti-smoking group Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)

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Around 17 per cent of people in Yorkshire smoke, and smoking kills around 8,900 people in the region every year.

Following the lockdown in March Sheffield Stop Smoking Service saw 53 per cent more smokers accessing the service compared to the year before.

Sarah Hepworth, Tobacco Control Lead at Sheffield City Council said the demand continued in April, and it has been forced to increase the number of telephone clinics it provides in response to demand.

She said: “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 per cent increase in visitors to the site.”

Public Health England’s regional director and NHS director of public health North East and Yorkshire, Professor Peter Kelly, said: “Quitting smoking now will bring immediate benefits to your health, reducing the risk of heart and lung problems for you and those around you. That’s good news for smokers and good news for our NHS”

The survey showed around 2 per cent of smokers had now quit due to Covid-19 concerns. In addition, 8 per cent of smokers said they were trying to quit, 36 per cent said they had cut down, and 27 per cent said they were now more likely to quit.

ASH chairman Nick Hopkinson, 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 people's 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, but it's especially important at a time like now when everyone is keen to stay out of hospital."

The government is aiming to end smoking in England by 2030 as part of a range of measures to address preventable ill health.

And the Local Government Association said councils will play a role in helping this happen.

Community Wellbeing Board chairman Ian Hudspeth said: "Smokers are at particular risk of Covid-19 and it is encouraging that so many have quit the habit for good.

"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."