COVID-19 prompted smokers to quit

(Press Release in May 2021)

In the past 12 months, nearly 10,000 Finns have quit smoking due to the health risks of COVID-19. In addition, 30% of smokers have tried to quit smoking for the same reason, according to a study commissioned by ASH Finland.

A study carried out by Kantar TNS market research company, in April shows that the pandemic seems to have affected the will to quit smoking also in Finland.

“According to a population survey, approximately 50,000 smokers have quit smoking since last spring. Approximately 10,000 of them reported COVID-19 as their main motivation. For others as well, awareness of the COVID-19 risk has certainly contributed to such many smokers quitting,” says Professor Pekka Puska, Chair of ASH Finland.

He points out that the results are in line with a study commissioned by the organisation last autumn. The studies may overlap to some extent but show that the pandemic has had a major impact on quitting smoking and efforts to quit smoking.

Nearly 60% want to quit

According to the study, 38% have cut back on smoking due to COVID-19.

“Based on previous studies, the willingness to quit smoking and attempts to quit are common in Finland. Health is usually the main motivation. Now, information on how smoking worsens the prognosis of COVID-19 has certainly had an impact – either directly or indirectly. In addition to the reports of having quit smoking, as many as 30% of smokers report that they have tried to quit smoking due to COVID-19,” Pekka Puska says.

According to the study, the willingness to quit smoking is high: 57% of smokers want to quit, which means approximately 260,000 smokers. The willingness to quit smoking is slightly more common among men than women. A clear majority (64%) of the youngest age group, up to 30-year-olds, are also willing to quit smoking. People aged 50 to 59 are the least motivated to quit smoking. In terms of levels of education, the most driven to quit smoking are those with basic or academic education.

“Support services for quitting smoking must be easily accessible to all. It is in the best interest of the smoker and their family and friends, but also of society. Smoking costs our society billions every year. Withdrawal is always a cheaper option for everyone,” says Mervi Hara, Executive Director of ASH Finland.

The opinion survey was carried out by Kantar TNS Oy on a commission by ASH Finland. For the study, 2,094 smokers and people who have quit smoking were gathered for the study. The data represent the population aged between 18 and 79. The research material was compiled in the Gallup Forum online panel from 9 to 26 April 2021. The margin of error is approximately 2.1 percentage points in either direction.

WHO: Governments must ensure support services

At the end of last year, the WHO launched the global campaign ‘Commit to Quit’, which is also the theme of this year’s World No Tobacco Day. The World No Tobacco Day is celebrated on 31 May.

The WHO urges governments in all countries to ensure that citizens have access to easily available support services for quitting smoking, nicotine replacement therapies and other tools that have been shown to help people quit smoking.

“Smoking kills 8 million people a year, but if smokers need some extra motivation, the COVID-19 pandemic offers just that,” says Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO, in a press release of the organisation.

The World No Tobacco Day has been celebrated since 1987 to draw attention to the global tobacco epidemic and to the preventable deaths and diseases it causes.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), millions of smokers have reported that the COVID-19 pandemic has increased their will to quit smoking.