One million smokers in UK have quit during the pandemic, with younger people giving up in higher numbers than older ones, research suggests.
A further 440,000 people have tried to give up smoking during the pandemic, according to the study, for charity Action on Smoking Health (ASH).
The study, carried out with University College London, showed that around 17% of smokers aged between 16 and 29 have quit, compared with 7% of over-50s.
There are an estimated 7.4 million smokers in the UK and a spokesman for ASH said that Government advice that says they may be at risk of more severe symptoms of COVID-19 is encouraging huge numbers to quit the habit.
ASH Chief Executive Deborah Arnott said: “Over a million smokers have succeeded in stopping smoking since COVID-19 hit Britain.
But she said the figure was “still nearly five times as many who have carried on smoking”.
The figures – more than 10,000 people were surveyed from mid-April to late June – were released by ASH to support a new campaign it has launched in an effort to reach out to those who want to quit but have not yet succeeded.
The ASH spokesman said that the campaign is being launched after the charity successfully targeted areas with high smoking rates such as the North East and Greater Manchester.
ANTI-SMOKING LOBBY ‘OPPORTUNISTS’ PUTTING HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY AT RISK DURING PANDEMIC, SMOKERS CLAIM
Anti-smoking campaigners have been accused of using the pandemic to push their “extreme” agenda at the expense of businesses, especially in the hospitality sector.
Smokers’ representative and lobby group Forest said that a push to ban smoking outside pubs, restaurants and cafes during the pandemic – and beyond – was “gross opportunism”According to reports, the government is being urged by a cross party group of peers to require pubs and cafes to ban outdoor smoking if they want a licence to serve ‘pavement drinks’.
Simon Clark (pictured), director of pro-smoking campaign group Forest, said: “This is gross opportunism by a small group of anti-smoking peers who have spotted a chance to advance their extreme anti-smoking agenda.
“There is no evidence that smoking in the open air is a threat to public health so this is a matter for individual businesses, not government or local authorities.
“In the wake of lockdown, pubs, restaurants and cafes already face huge challenges.
“This is the worst possible time to add to their burden by imposing further regulations that could discourage a lot of smokers from returning.”
Urging the hospitality industry to fight the proposal, Clark added: “The smoking ban had a huge impact on the pub sector and was a significant factor in thousands of pubs closing after it was introduced in 2007.
“Although many smokers reluctantly adapted to the ban, banning smoking outside could be the final straw.
“The hospitality industry needs to issue a firm response and reject additional government interference on an issue that should be a matter for individual proprietors.”