CHILWORTH, England, April 8, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Centre for Health Research and Education (CHRE), University of Southampton Science Park:
As covid-related social distancing, economic uncertainty and stress become widely prevalent, around 11 million ex-smokers in the UK are at risk of relapsing back to smoking, a stop-smoking expert doctor said today in an article published in the BJGP Open.
Dr. Pooja Patwardhan, GP and Medical Director of the Centre for Health Research and Education (CHRE), estimates, that another 6 million current smokers in the UK and hundreds of millions worldwide are at risk of smoking more cigarettes and risking their lives even more in the longer term.
Coronavirus is known to attack the lungs which can develop into Covid-19 related pneumonia in severe cases. The government has clearly outlined those who may be at a higher risk, including the elderly and people with pre-existing medical conditions such as asthma or diabetes. A slightly less well-known message, that smokers are also at higher risk of gaining serious coronavirus symptoms, needs to be distributed at a much more urgent rate.
With the treasury estimation of over 3 million workers likely to be furloughed by their employers, a record numbers of people will be staying at home; anxious and stressed. It is necessary to act quickly to ensure that smoking levels do not rise during the high tide of a 'respiratory system attacking' virus epidemic.
Dr. Rick Driscoll, senior consultant psychiatrist and expert advisor to the CHRE understands well the behavioural psychology triggers for smoking relapse and barriers to quitting smoking. He points out, "Stress is now a scientifically accepted trigger for caving-in to one's current or former smoking habits, reducing the success of smoking cessation schemes. In times of global epidemics such as covid, economic uncertainty and inability to be surrounded by all of your loved ones, stress levels can reach breaking point." He adds, "Or, in this case, the point where individuals succumb to their short-term relief from that one cigarette, rather than holding out for long term benefits that come with quitting."
The CHRE's research team is now working with Professor Tapas Mishra, Director of Centre for Empirical Research in Finance and Banking at the University of Southampton to apply economic theory and social research techniques to this problem. Prof Mishra reports that they are "building a realistic model using factors known to influence smoking and relapse" and "present different scenarios that can inform policymakers and healthcare professionals better on the indirect impact of covid on smoking rates and the resulting long term morbidity and mortality in the UK."
Dr. Patwardhan states the urgency of action required by the government to make the message clear to smokers and ex-smokers that now is the time to #quitforcovid. She says, "I would urge the UK government, NHS and Public Health England to communicate advice and guidance to everyone about 'pre-empting and managing the risk of relapse to smoking and of cravings to smoke more' in all their covid-related public documents." She says that people at risk of smoking should seek advice from national smokefree helpline and if appropriate keep an easy access to safer nicotine products like nicotine gums or e-cigarettes, to stay away from smoking.
With unemployment, stress and coronavirus all extremely prevalent with no signs of leaving for at least a few months, it is vital that smokers and ex-smokers are given enough support to reduce both deaths and strain to the already buckling NHS. Dr. Patwardhan predicts, "If we are unable to do so, we could have an even bigger, deadlier problem on our hands."
- More than 14% of adults in England (more than 6 million people) smoke cigarettes regularly
- The Government has stated its ambitions to have a 'smokefree England' by 2030, that is, with less than 5% of regular adult smokers.
About the Centre for Health Research and Education (CHRE):
- CHRE is an independent, Hampshire UK based healthcare company founded by medical doctors with a mission of global cancer prevention.
- CHRE does not receive any funds from tobacco, pharmaceutical or e-cigarette companies.
- CHRE's approach is to bridge the policy and practice gap in delivering smoking cessation treatments and services globally.
Ms. Ira Banerjee
Comms Manager, CHRE
SOURCE Centre for Health Research and Education (CHRE), University of Southampton Science Park