Smokers are quitting in highest numbers in a decade since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, a survey by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) has found.
The survey estimates that 1,095,409 smokers have quit since the pandemic began in March. A further 440,000 smokers tried to quit during this period.
‘Every day of my working life I see the terrible health problems caused by smoking,’ said respiratory consultant Dr Ruth Sharrock.
‘But I have also been inspired by those already suffering from smoking related diseases, who have still managed quit and get health benefits from this. My message to smokers today is, please, do not wait. Whether you are healthy now or already unwell because of smoking, today is the day to stop. It can transform your life.’
While thousands have heeded advice to quit during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is great variation by age, with younger smokers quitting at a much greater rate than older smokers. Around 400,000 people aged 16-29 have quit compared to 240,000 of those over 50.
This difference is driven by rates of quitting among 16-29 year olds more than twice the rate those over 50 (17% of smokers and recent ex-smokers aged between 16-29 compared to 7% of those older than 50). People aged 30-49 have a slightly lower rate of quitting than the under 30s (13% of smokers and recent ex-smokers) but a similar number of people giving up smoking at around 400,000, due to the size of the population.
‘Over a million smokers may have succeeded in stopping smoking since COVID-19 hit Britain, but millions more have carried on smoking,’ said Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive, Action on Smoking and Health.
‘This campaign is designed to encourage those who’ve not yet succeeded, to wake up and decide today is the day to stop smoking.’