Infectious Disease

Smoking quit attempts declined during COVID-19 pandemic

August 04, 2022

2 min read

Source/Disclosures

Disclosures:
Bandi reports no relevant financial disclosures. Please see the study for all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.

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Among US adults, there was an immediate decrease in smoking-cessation activities during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new data published in JAMA Network Open.

“This cross-sectional study found that, starting in 2020 quarter 2, the prevalence of past-year quit attempts among US adults decreased to its lowest level since 2011,” Priti Bandi, PhD, principal scientist in surveillance and health equity science at the American Cancer Society, and colleagues wrote. “Simultaneously, observed nicotine replacement therapy retail sales across 31 US states decreased by a mean of 1% to 13% vs. expected sales. These findings suggest an immediate decrease in serious quitting activity among US smokers after the COVID-19 pandemic onset, a decrease that persisted throughout 2020.”

Data were derived from Bandi P, et al. JAMA Netw Open. 2022;doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.25149.

This cross-sectional study used data from 2011 to 2020 from 788,008 individuals (55.7% men) who reported smoking in the past year who participated in the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey. Researchers utilized retail sales data from 2017 to July 2021 for 1,004 unique nicotine replacement therapy universal product codes in 31 states in the US

The main outcomes were changes in annual self-reported prevalence of past-year quit attempts, recent successful smoking cessation before (2011-2019) and during (2020) the COVID-19 pandemic, and sales volume changes in nicotine gum, lozenge and patch brands for 1,271 4-week sales periods from 2017 to February 2020 and for 558 4-week sales periods from March 2020 to July 2021 of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The prevalence of annual past-year quit attempts decreased from 65.2% in 2019 to 63.2% in 2020. The largest smoking-cessation activity decreases were reported in individuals aged 45 to 64 years (61.4% vs. 57.7%), individuals with two or more comorbidities (67.1% vs. 63%) and Black individuals (72.5% vs. 68.4%).

From 2019 to 2020, recent successful smoking cessation remained unchanged, according to the researchers.

During the pre-pandemic period from 2011 to 2019, 4-week nicotine replacement therapy sales volume was 105.6 million for nicotine gum pieces, 51.9 million for lozenges and 2 million for nicotine patches. During the pandemic in 2020, 4-week nicotine replacement therapy sales were lower at 1.2% for nicotine gum, 13% for lozenges and 6.4% for nicotine patches.

“These results, when taken together with reports of increased cigarette sales during the pandemic, suggest the urgent need to reengage smokers in evidence-based quitting strategies, especially among individuals experiencing disproportionately negative outcomes during the pandemic,” the researchers wrote.

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