The landscape of smoking itself has changed rapidly in the last few years. Cigarettes have become progressively more expensive and in 2020, we saw the total ban of menthol cigarettes in the UK and EU. This continued pressure on smokers has been motivated by the UK’s smoke-free by 2030 goal. As such, more and more people are reaching for a vape instead. Back in 2019, there were over 3 million vapers in the UK and we creep closer to that 4 million mark everyday – those numbers rising even more quickly with the on-going covid-19 pandemic.
Aside from the health implications smoking carries on its own, with a virus that affects lung health so heavily, the conditions covid has put us in will also be a contributing factor – for better or worse. Some of the challenges that smokers face when they’re trying to quit have been lessened or removed completely. Our environment and routine play a huge part in our success in trying to quit. When we’re around other people who are smokers, it can increase temptation to give up on your quit attempt. What with lockdown preventing us all from spending so much time at the pub and in social situations – smokers have been less exposed to those factors.
Our routines have been turned upside too. More of us than ever have been working from home – meaning those usual cigarette break times have been removed. Being at home around children and taking their health into consideration has also likely been a strong factor in people cutting down, or cutting out the cigarettes completely. Depending on cash flow during covid, people may have less disposable income and in turn made the decision to reserve their cash for other things.
On the flip side, covid has led to a lot of extra stress. Whether that’s because of a job loss, or trying to balance working from home while also home-schooling kids, everyone has had a lot more pressure on them in the past year. A significant factor in smoking is stress – we get stressed, we need a cigarette which in turn increases heart rate and within our bodies actually elevates those stress signals in our brains. Add to that, without seeing other people as often, no morning commutes and in-office limits on how often you can smoke, people have more time on their hands than normal.