Welsh smokers are among the 300,000 people across the UK who have quit over Covid-19 fears according to new figures released today.
According to a survey from the UK arm of YouGov’s international Covid-19 Tracker, a further 550,000 people in the UK have tried to quit, which equates to around 37,000 smokers in Wales. A further 2.4 million have cut down on the amount they smoke, due to concerns over the increased risk smokers face if they catch Covid-19.
Meanwhile quit smoking experts in Wales say NHS Wales’ Help Me Quit service has seen a 51% increase this month in the numbers of smokers calling them and is helping people quit in all parts of Wales.
YouGov’s survey is the first in the UK to reveal how coronavirus is changing smokers’ attitudes towards cigarettes. Among the survey’s findings researchers discovered that:
• 2% of ex-smokers say that they have quit completely recently due to COVID -19. This equates to around 300,000 people who are now ex-smokers because of concerns over Covid-19
• A quarter of ex-smokers say that Covid-19 makes it less likely they will relapse to smoking (4% say it makes it more likely they will relapse)
• 8% of smokers have tried to quit because of Covid – this equates to around 550,000 smokers in UK trying to quit.
• 36% have cut down how many cigarettes they smoke. This equates to around 2.4 million smokers cutting down the amount they smoke because of concerns over COVID-19
• 27% of smokers say they are more likely to quit because of Covid
Smokers face higher risks from Covid-19 because smoking damages the body’s natural lung defences and weakens the immune system.
It is also a leading cause of cardiovascular and respiratory and cancer conditions that put patients are high risk if they catch the virus.
Evidence has shown that smokers who contract Covid-19 have more severe symptoms.
Professor Keir Lewis who is Professor of Respiratory Medicine at Swansea University has warned smokers about the risks they face from Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic. He said:
“As a lung doctor seeing Covid-19 patients every day, I do see that people who smoke suffer worse Covid disease symptoms and receive more intensive treatment.
“The increase in people quitting is fabulous news and may do as much to protect the NHS and each other in some instances as social distancing.
“This also means that some of the long-term devastating effects of smoking are being avoided.”
Suzanne Cass, is CEO of ASH Wales. She said:
“It’s great news that so many smokers in Wales are joining the hundreds of thousands across the UK who are quitting over concerns about Covid-19.
“This is quite simply the best decision they can make right now to protect their health and the health of those around them and to reduce pressure on the NHS.
“As well as significantly increasing the risk of suffering severe symptoms from Covid-19, smoking leads to devastating long-term health consequences and is the leading cause of premature death in Wales.”
Ashley Gould, consultant in Public Health at Public Health Wales, said:
“The NHS is helping people tackle Covid-19 in lots of ways, including providing expert advice and support to smokers, to boost their chances of quitting.
“NHS Help Me Quit services are available now, over the phone, and provide free medicines too. The health risks linked to Covid-19, for smokers and those they live with, can be reduced when people quit, and the NHS is ready to help. Search ‘Help Me Quit’ or call 0800 085 2219.”