Over six million adults in England still smoke – including an estimated 60,000 in Cornwall – and it remains the leading cause of premature death with almost 75,000 preventable deaths a year.
A new nationwide survey of 2,000 current smokers has found that nearly half (45%) have been smoking more since the first lockdown began.
Key reasons reported are being bored in the lockdowns (43%) or the pandemic making them more anxious (42%). Data from the monthly UCL Smoking Toolkit Study also indicates a large increase in smoking among the under-35s since the coronavirus pandemic, up from 18% in 2019 to 24% now.
It comes as research suggests smokers are 14 times more likely to develop serious breathing issues if they catch Covid-19 and are also more likely to spread the virus, due to sharing lighters on cigarette breaks and touching their faces while smoking.
Dr Ruth Goldstein, public health consultant and deputy director of public health at Cornwall Council, said: “The pandemic has taken its toll on a lot of people both mentally and physically so it isn’t surprising that people are smoking more to combat stress, anxiety and even boredom. But the negative impact of smoking on our health cannot be understated and this is why I would urge every smoker to embrace Stoptober and try to use it as a springboard to quit for good.
“Smoking increases anxiety and tension and quitting is proven to boost your mental health and wellbeing: it can improve mood and help relieve stress, anxiety and depression.”
Cllr Dr Andy Virr, portfolio holder for adults and public health and Emergency Department consultant at the Royal Cornwall Hospital, added: “I see the devastation that smoking causes to people’s lives and the lives of their families and loved ones on an almost daily basis.
“We want to take this opportunity to help smokers realise that quitting can be less stressful than they fear and can have a huge, positive impact on their lives. If you ditch the cigarettes, not only will you be able to lead a more active, longer life, you’ll also save a fortune. So why not join the thousands of others across the country who will be stubbing out their habit for Stoptober?”
He added: “Stopping smoking is always beneficial to health and it is never too late to quit. The chances of success of any given quit attempt get higher the more times someone tries. With so much support available, this Stoptober could be your time to quit for good.”
For more information on quitting visit the Healthy Cornwall Smokefree web page or download the free NHS Smokefree app.