1 million people in Britain stopped smoking amid COVID-19 pandemic, according to UK nonprofit

Amid what seem to be constant and troubling negative developments in the COVID-19 crisis, a splash of good health news is coming from the other side of the pond: 1 million people in Britain have stopped smoking since the pandemic began.

The milestone was reported by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), a public health charity dedicated to raising awareness of the hazards caused by tobacco use. According to a July 15 news release from ASH, roughly 400,000 people between the ages of 16 and 29 quit, while 240,000 of those who gave up smoking were over the age of 50.

ASH and University College London (UCL) analyzed 2019 population data from Britain’s Office for National Statistics to come to their 1 million quitters conclusion. 

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“The central estimate is 1,095,409, with a 95% confidence interval of 947,096 to 1,259,014 people,” ASH said. “This is a rate for short-term quit success and it remains to be seen if this translates into longer term quit success.”

While the various health hazards of smoking have been well-known for decades, smokers may face severe health outcomes if they contract COVID-19, with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention including smokers on its list of those who are at high risk of severe illness caused by the virus.

“COVID-19 is an infectious disease that primarily attacks the lungs,” according to the World Health Organization (WHO). “Smoking impairs lung function making it harder for the body to fight off coronaviruses and other respiratory diseases.”

“Given the risks to health that tobacco use causes, WHO recommends quitting tobacco use,” the global health agency said. “Quitting will help your lungs and heart to work better from the moment you stop.”

In April, KQED reported that the fear of coronavirus was prompting some smokers to quit. The American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation also warns of the need for COVID-19 survivors to avoid experiencing second-hand smoke.

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