Many smokers upped their cigarette consumption during New Zealand’s Covid-19 lockdown, according to new research published by the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco.
New Zealand’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic was one of the most restrictive lockdowns of any country, inevitably causing stress for many people. Because situations that increase stress and anxiety are associated with higher smoking prevalence, the researchers examined self-reported smoking before and during the lockdown, and analyzed factors associated with reported changes in cigarette consumption.
The scientists conducted an online panel survey of a demographically representative sample of 2010 adult New Zealanders during the Covid-19 lockdown; the final, weighted sample included 261 daily smokers and 71 weekly smokers. We measured psychological distress and anxiety, as well as situational factors, tobacco consumption and demographic attributes.
Nearly half of daily smokers reported smoking more during than before the lockdown, on average, an increase of six cigarettes a day; increased daily cigarette consumption was associated with loneliness and isolation. Most weekly smokers reported either that their smoking during the lockdown had not changed or had slightly reduced.
“As governments introduce unprecedented measures to manage Covid-19, they need also to consider other public health risks, such as increased smoking among current smokers or relapse among recent quitters,” the authors wrote in their report. “Evidence that loneliness was associated with increased smoking during a lockdown suggests a need for cessation out-reach strategies that promote and support smoke-free practices.”