According to a recent study conducted by the American Cancer Society (ACS), fewer adults tried to quit smoking in the United States after the onset of COVID-19 and the trend continued for over a year.
People who experienced disproportionately negative outcomes during COVID-19, such as Black people, people with comorbidities, middle-aged people, and people with less education, showed the greatest declines in attempts to quit smoking. The information was released today in the JAMA Network Open journal of the American Medical Association.
“Smoking cessation is an urgent public health priority given that smoking is associated with an increased risk of severe COVID-19 outcomes and at least 12 cancers,” said Dr. Priti Bandi, principal scientist, risk factors and screening surveillance research at the American Cancer Society and lead author of the study. “It is essential to re-engage persons who smoke in serious attempts to quit smoking, considering a typical smoker tries to quit on average six times before being successful.”
Researchers used data from the nationally representative Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey from 2011 to 2020 on nearly 800,000 people who had smoked within the previous year. Also used were representative retail scanner sales data from NielsenIQ for 1004 distinct nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) universal produce codes between January 2017 and July 2021 in 31 American states.
According to the findings, American smokers’ annual prevalence of recent quit attempts dropped for the first time since 2011–from 65.2 per cent in 2019 to 63.2 per cent in 2020. The quit attempt prevalence started to decline in the first quarter of 2020 and stayed down throughout the year.
Declines started as soon as COVID-19 (which started in April 2020) started, and they continued through the first quarter of 2021.
Dr William Dahut, chief scientific officer at the American Cancer Society, said, “These results remind us how crucial it is for clinicians and healthcare systems to support persons who smoke with evidence-based quitting strategies.” Such initiatives must pay special attention to those who have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, such as Black people, people in their middle years, people with comorbid conditions, and people with less education.
According to Lisa Lacasse, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), an advocacy arm of the ACS, “Tobacco is the number one, preventable cause of cancer and is responsible for up to one-third of all cancer deaths.” “We must exert every effort to ensure that people trying to quit tobacco have access to the cessation services they require because we are aware that it is not simple to do so. We can assist more people in quitting and aid in the reduction of cancer disparities brought on by this deadly product by ensuring Medicaid programs in every state pay for all FDA-approved cessation treatments and services and that state tobacco prevention and cessation programs receive adequate funding.”