COVID19: The Pandemic Has Caused a Regression in Smoking Rates


COVID-19: Setting the scene

So much has been written about COVID-19 and its impact on the world, that the details do not bear repeating. Suffice to say that the world was blindsided by the appearance of the SARS-C0V-2 virus in Wuhan, China during the last days of 2019. 

It has since wreaked havoc across the globe both from an economic perspective and a physical and mental health standpoint. Current numbers of global infections stand at just over 29 million while the fatality rate from this virus is just under 1 million people (929 678 deaths).

Unfortunately, while most countries, except for India and the USA, seem to be past the worst of the first wave, many nations like Spain, France, Greece, and Israel are moving into their second wave of an increase of infections and possibly even deaths.

This SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes the COVID-19 illness is incredibly infectious or contagious and spreads primarily by person-to-person contact. Hence the reason for shutting down the global economy and sending people home to social distance in an attempt to control and spread the virus’s spread. 

As an aside, Israel has implemented a full two-week lockdown for the second time from Friday night 18 September 2020 while England has banned gatherings of more than six people at any given moment for a second time. Both of these measures are an attempt to prevent a second wave of COVID-19 from overtaking each country. 

COVID-19 and the UK lockdown 2020

Apart from the economic and physical devastation caused by the loss of life and the loss of income by most of the world’s population, the mental health consequences of staying isolated, in lockdown for weeks or months at a time has only begun to be quantified.

The full lockdown in the UK started on 23 March 2020. It was initially meant to be a three-week lockdown where residents were only allowed out when absolutely necessary, for food, medicine, and exercise. No one was able to visit friends or family. And shops, restaurants, bars, and offices were all closed until further notice. 

This lockdown was extended for another three weeks. 

Fast forward to May 2020 where on 20 May 2020, the full lockdown was slightly eased. And as time has passed, various industries such as the hospitality industry have been reopened with people being allowed to move around more. Schools have returned by now (September 2020) with new mask-wearing and social distancing guidelines designed to keep children safe. 

For all intents and purposes, the UK government is attempting to return to everyday living despite a virus that is clearly here to stay for the foreseeable future. 

However, UK residents have been living with some form of lockdown for over five months now. The mental and emotional pressures caused by the pandemic have been and continue to be enormous. 

A research study titled, “COVID-19: Risk of increase in smoking rates among England’s 6 million smokers and relapse among England’s 11 million ex-smokers,” noted that the “possible unintended consequences of social isolation and mental stress” is to either smoke more or to relapse and start smoking again. 

Statistics demonstrating the numbers of people who have relapsed are not yet available. But these numbers are not the raison d’etre for this article. The reason for this discussion is found in the acceptance of the fact that the high stresses linked to the COVID-19 pandemic have led to an increase in smoking rates. And, in doing so, the door opens to the discussion of how to reduce the increased numbers of tobacco smokers in the UK.

Vaping: The answer to reducing the numbers of tobacco smokers in the UK

It’s essential to note that the UK government’s official stance of vaping as opposed to smoking tobacco is that vaping is 95% safer than smoking. Therefore, this statement is made based on this fact. In other words, vaping nicotine-based e-liquids is considered 90% safer than smoking any form of tobacco derivatives.

Therefore, the question that begs is, how do you cut down on the number of cigarettes you smoke a day or even stop smoking by switching to vaping? 

By way of answering this question, let’s consider the following points: 

1. Understand the nicotine strength in the e-liquids you vape

Nicotine-based fluids come in the following strengths: 

  • Low (3mg – 6mg): use if you smoke to 10 cigarettes a day.
  • Medium (6mg – 12m): use if you smoke between 10 and 20 cigarettes per day.
  • High (12mg – 18mg): vape if you smoke up to 30 cigarettes per day.
  • Ultra-high (18mg – 24mg): vape if you smoke more than 30 cigarettes each day

By understanding the nicotine strength in the e-liquid cartridges, you know where to start. 

For example, if you currently smoke up to 30 cigarettes per day, then it’s best to start vaping a high-strength fluid and slowly work your way down to a low-strength fluid. 

It is also essential to note that vaping products do not all include nicotine. Therefore, you can wean yourself off nicotine and still continue to vape. 

2. Consider using herbal e-fluids to combat anxiety and stress

Nicotine is primarily used as a stress-reliever. Consequently, it stands to reason that smoking reduces stress and calms you down. There are a number of e-liquids that contain herbal extracts that are designed to act as a natural anxiolytic and stress reliever. Therefore, while weaning yourself off nicotine by vaping, it is also essential to add in a couple of e-liquid cartridges that have a calming effect. 

This is particularly relevant at night just before you go to bed. For reasons unknown to medical researchers, anxiety levels seem to rise at night. And, sleep is a known counterweight to stress and anxiety. Therefore, it is essential to ensure that you get a good night’s sleep every night of the week, especially during the stress-filled days of the pandemic.

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