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Bored & Stressed, Smokers Smoked More  During Pandemic

THURSDAY, April 1, 2021 -- Pandemic-related stress has prompted many smokers to light up more often, new research shows, while others smoked more because they could.

"Working at home allows me to smoke at will rather than being in a smoke-free environment for 8 hours per day," one study participant told researchers.

Whatever the reason, any increase in smoking could put these people at greater risk of dependence and make it more difficult for them to quit, said study author Jessica Yingst. She's an assistant professor of public health sciences at Penn State's College of Medicine, in Hershey, Penn.

Figuring out why folks are smoking more "can help us identify how to better address cessation efforts during the pandemic," Yingst said in a Penn State news release.

"New methods like telemedicine and increasing public health messaging could encourage people to stop smoking in the absence of public support groups or other in-person interventions," she suggested.

In the study, Yingst and her colleagues at the Penn State Center for Research on Tobacco and Health asked 291 smokers about their tobacco use before and during the early months of the pandemic.

Nearly one-third said they smoked more during the pandemic and cited factors such as stress, more free time and boredom for the increase.

Only 10% of the smokers said they smoked less during the pandemic, and said that was due to schedule changes, being around nonsmokers (such as children) and health reasons, the findings showed.

Nearly one-quarter of the smokers said they tried to quit smoking during the pandemic, and one-third of them said the decision was based on reducing their risk of severe illness if they contracted COVID-19.

Only seven smokers successfully quit all tobacco use, according to the report published recently in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

The smokers were also asked how they assessed their health risks during the pandemic. More than two-thirds believed their risk of contracting COVID-19 was the same as nonsmokers, but more than half thought they were at higher risk for serious complications from COVID-19.

© 2021 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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