Smokers have struggled with their habit during the coronavirus pandemic, researchers say

The coronavirus pandemic has proven to be a difficult time for cigarette smokers, according to new NHS figures.

The number of people in Leicester and the wider county who have tried to quit has risen from 4,735 in the year ending March 2020 to 3,814 in the same period last year .

However, official figures also show among those who attempted to quit smoking were more likely to be successful.

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Across Leicestershire last year, 2,511 smokers successfully quit, according to NHS figures, meaning two-thirds of those who tried were successful. This compares to 63% the previous year.

Those in the county fared slightly better in their efforts than those in the city.

Nationally, 59% of smokers who made this attempt were successful in the year ending March 2021, compared to 51% in the year before the pandemic.

This is a much higher proportion of successful quits than any other year in the past decade. Since 2010/11, the percentage of successful dropouts has fluctuated between 49 and 52%.

However, NHS figures showed that the number of people, who live in the city and the wider county, setting a target date to quit smoking has fallen further.

While this follows a recent trend of national figures showing fewer numbers making the decision to quit each year since 2012, it could also be partly explained by the coronavirus pandemic.

ASH research shows that 60% of local authorities commission some or all of their smoking cessation services from primary care providers who were less likely to be able to provide support to smokers last year when they were on the front lines of the fight against Covid-19.

Services that rely on referrals from GP surgeries and pharmacies have also reportedly been affected by the disruption, while some smokers have simply stayed away from support services due to the risk of catching or spreading the virus. virus.

For some smokers, the pandemic may not have been the best time to quit.

The UK charity, ASH, calls the greater chance of success for those who have tried to quit during the pandemic, the “pandemic effect”.

Working from home, the added financial pressures, being fired, and the anxieties of contracting the virus or seeing loved ones sick might have convinced many that the added stress of trying to quit smoking wasn’t worth it. .

Hazel Cheeseman, Deputy Chief Executive of ASH, said: “Many areas have been able to maintain support for smokers during the pandemic, but those providing services through pharmacies and GPs have struggled as these professional staff were at the forefront of the Covid-19 response.

“However, support for smokers has been declining for a decade now due to government underfunding.

“The funding gap should be closed by a tax on tobacco companies, something widely supported by the health sector and which is due to be debated this week as part of the Health and Care Bill.

“The government should seize the opportunity to fund services that could help thousands more quit smoking.”

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