More than 525,000 calls were made to state smoking ‘quit lines’ through 1-800-QUIT-NOW in 2020, the North American Quitline Consortium revealed on Friday.
This is in comparison to the more than 715,000 calls that were made the year before, in 2019.
It comes on the heels of new figures from the UK that found cigarette sales rose by seven percent to £12.4 billion during lockdowns.
In 2020, there were more than 525,000 calls were made to state smoking quit hotlines through that national number 1-800-QUIT-NOW, a 27% drop from the year before, a new report found
There was a 6% drop in the first quarter of 2020 compared to 2019 followed 3by a 39% drop, 30% drop and and 21% in quarters two, three and four, respectively
‘Stress and anxiety may be factors in the increase in tobacco use and [as a result] the decrease in interest in quitting,’ said Linda Bailey, president and CEO of the North American Quitline Consortium, during a media briefing on Friday, according to UPI.
‘It’s more important now than ever to make smokers aware of the risks [during the pandemic].’
Over the past several decades, adult smoking prevalence rates in the U.S. have dramatically fallen.
In 1965, 42.4 percent of all American adults smoked compared to 14 percent today, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
For the report, the North American Quitline Consortium – a non-profit organization – looked at calls were made to 1-800-QUIT-NOW.
The phone number was set up by the CDC in 2012 and promoted state quit hotlines to tobacco users by using a national portal.
Since the program began, it has been highly successful with between 700,000 to 900,000 calls made every year.
However, in 2020, there were 525,609 calls made, a 27 percent decrease from the 715,624 calls made in 2019.
The call volume is also the lowest seen since 2007, before there was a national hotline.
The decrease in calls occurred parallel to the course of the pandemic with a six percent drop in the first quarter compared to 2019.
These were followed by drops of 39 percent, 30 percent, and 21 percent in quarters two, three and four, respectively, compared to 2019.
Health experts says these figures are concerning considering the research that has linked smoking status with severe COVID-19 infection and death.
The drop in calls is in spite the fact that smoking rates have fallen to the lowest percentages ever at 14%
In January 2021, a study found smokers face nearly double the risk of being hospitalized for COVID-19 or dying compared to people who have never smoked.
And a March 2021 study found smokers are more prone to COVID-19, because they have higher levels of a receptor the virus uses to enter and infect cells.
Doctors theorize that the stress and social isolation had made it difficult for smokers to try to quit or has even caused people to relapse.
‘The decrease in calls…is concerning to the American Lung Association,’ Anne DiGiulio, national director of lung health policy at the association, said during the press briefing on Friday, UPI reported.
‘In light of [the COVID-19 risk for smokers], quitting has never been more important,’ she said.