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Have there been sustained impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on trends in smoking prevalence, uptake, quitting, use of treatment, and relapse? A monthly population study in England, 2017-2022

Jackson, Sarah E; Tattan-Birch, Harry; Shahab, Lion; Beard, Emma; Brown, Jamie; (2023) Have there been sustained impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on trends in smoking prevalence, uptake, quitting, use of treatment, and relapse? A monthly population study in England, 2017-2022. BMC Medicine , 21 , Article 474. 10.1186/s12916-023-03157-2. Green open access

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Abstract

Background: Studies conducted during the early stages of the pandemic documented mixed changes in smoking behaviour: more smokers quitting successfully but little change in prevalence. This study aimed to examine whether there have been sustained impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on smoking patterns in England. Methods: Data were from 101,960 adults (≥ 18 years) participating in the Smoking Toolkit Study, a monthly representative household survey, between June 2017 and August 2022. Interviews were conducted face-to-face until March 2020 and via telephone thereafter. Generalised additive models estimated associations of the pandemic onset (March 2020) with current smoking, uptake, cessation, quit attempts, and use of support. Models adjusted for seasonality, sociodemographic characteristics, and (where relevant) dependence and tobacco control mass-media expenditure. Results: Before the COVID-19 pandemic, smoking prevalence fell by 5.2% per year; this rate of decline slowed to 0.3% per year during the pandemic (RRΔtrend = 1.06, 95% CI = 1.02, 1.09). This slowing was evident in more but not less advantaged social grades (RRΔtrend = 1.15, 1.08, 1.21; RRΔtrend = 1.00, 0.96, 1.05). There were sustained step-level changes in different age groups: a 34.9% (95% CI = 17.7, 54.7%) increase in smoking prevalence among 18–24-year-olds, indicating a potential rise in uptake, in contrast to a 13.6% (95% CI = 4.4, 21.9%) decrease among 45–65-year-olds. In both age groups, these step-level changes were followed by the pre-pandemic declines stopping, and prevalence remaining flat. There were sustained increases in quitting among past-year smokers, with a 120.4% (95% CI = 79.4, 170.9%) step-level increase in cessation and a 41.7% (95% CI = 29.7, 54.7%) increase in quit attempts. The main limitation was the change in modality of data collection when the pandemic started; while this may have contributed to the step-level changes we observed, it is unlikely to explain changes in the slope of trends. Conclusions: In England, the rate of decline in adult smoking prevalence stagnated during the COVID-19 pandemic through to 2022. At the start of the pandemic, a potential reduction in smoking prevalence among middle-aged adults and increases in quitting among smokers may have been offset by an increase in smoking among young adults. The slowing in the rate of decline was pronounced in more advantaged social grades.

Type: Article
Title: Have there been sustained impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on trends in smoking prevalence, uptake, quitting, use of treatment, and relapse? A monthly population study in England, 2017-2022
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1186/s12916-023-03157-2
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12916-023-03157-2
Language: English
Additional information: Open Access: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health > Behavioural Science and Health
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10180893
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