Surge in motivation to quit among smokers as doctors warn of worse complications from covid-19

Leading health organisations and hospital doctors back the call for smokers to quit now

Female with chest pain

Nationally at least 300,000 people have quit smoking successfully, a further 550,000 have tried to quit and 2.4 million have cut down on the number of cigarettes they smoke due to growing concerns around coronavirus (COVID-19) and the increased risk smokers face.

These estimates are based on findings from the UK arm of YouGov’s international Covid Tracker¹. They come as evidence shows that smokers in hospital who have coronavirus are at a higher risk than non-smokers of severe illness².

Around 17% of people in the Yorkshire and Humber smoke and smoking kills around 8,900 people in the Yorkshire and Humber each year³.

The findings showing more smokers are ready to quit comes as the #QuitforCOVID campaign gathers pace nationally. #Quit forCOVID was launched on Twitter by Bristol-based family GP Dr Charlie Kenward and has been backed by the Smokefree Action Coalition⁴, Breathe 2025⁵ and respiratory clinicians. The Association of Directors of Public Health has become the latest organisation to support calls for smokers to quit for COVID. Public Health England also back the calls, adding that quitting now can alleviate pressure on the NHS.

“Stopping smoking remains the single biggest thing people can do to improve their overall health. It will improve heart and lung health as well as reducing the chances of developing cancer and even improve wound healing after surgery.

There has never been a better time to quit and with a wealth of resources available to support you, I urge people to take control of your health and stop smoking today.”

– Dr Kenward

Smokers can find out how to get help with their quit attempts by visiting and ask questions of leading experts by tweeting @QuitforCOVID in a daily Twitter clinic. Smokers can also access support from their local stop smoking services many of which have switched to providing telephone support.

One area seeing more enquiries from smokers is Sheffield.

“Following the national lockdown the Sheffield Stop Smoking Service saw an increase of 53% more smokers accessing the service for quit support than the previous year. During April the demand for the service has continued and we have had to increase the number of telephone clinics in response to this demand. Many smokers have told our advisors they are worried and want to quit because of COVID-19

In addition, the Smokefree Sheffield website has had over 1,878 people visit during in April, seeking information on smoking, with the most viewed page being our ‘Quit for Covid’ page. Compared to the same time last year this is 130% increase in visitors to the site. This shows that smokers have been receptive to and have engaged with our Quit for Covid campaign”

– Sarah Hepworth, Tobacco Control Lead at Sheffield City Council

“Quitting smoking now will bring immediate benefits to your health, reducing the risk of heart and lung problems for you and those around you. That’s good news for smokers and good news for our NHS”

– Professor Peter Kelly, PHE Regional Director and NHS Director of Public Health North East and Yorkshire

The YouGov survey – the first in the UK to reveal how coronavirus is impacting smokers’ attitudes towards cigarettes, shows that COVID-19 is significantly increasing smokers’ motivation to quit and to stay quit. It finds that:

● 2% of ex-smokers say that they have quit completely recently due to COVID -19. This equates to around 300,000 people⁶ who are now ex-smokers because of concerns over COVID-19⁷.
● A quarter of ex-smokers say that COVID-19 makes it less likely they will relapse to smoking (4% say it makes it more likely they will relapse)
● 8% of smokers have tried to quit because of COVID – this equates to around 550,000 smokers in UK trying to quit.⁷
● 36% have cut down how many cigarettes they smoke. This equates to around 2.4 million smokers cutting down the amount they smoke because of concerns over COVID-19⁷.
● 27% of smokers say they are more likely to quit because of COVID

While concerns around COVID-19 appears to be reducing smoking overall, 14% of smokers say it has made them less likely to quit as a result.

“COVID-19 is making everyone much more concerned about staying healthy, and for people who smoke that means quitting.

This survey shows that COVID-19 has increased the desire of many smokers to quit. It is important that health professionals are still able to offer them the support they need to give them the best chance to succeed.”

– Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)

Smokers are also much more at risk of a range of serious health problems requiring them to be admitted to hospital such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, chronic bronchitis, emphysema and pneumonia⁶.

“Smoking harms the immune system and our ability to fight off infections. Evidence is growing that smoking is associated with worse outcomes in those admitted to hospital with COVID-19.

Quitting smoking also rapidly reduces people’s risk of other health problems such as heart attacks and strokes – those are bad whenever they happen, so preventing them is an end in itself, but it’s especially important at a time like now when everyone is keen to stay out of hospital.”

– Dr Nick Hopkinson, Respiratory Specialist at Imperial College London and Chair of Action on Smoking Health (ASH)

“There are so many reasons to quit smoking but never a more important time than right now during the coronavirus pandemic. Emerging evidence suggests that smoking puts people more at risk from severe complications from COVID-19, and the ADPH is now supporting efforts to encourage smokers to quit for COVID.”

– Ruth Tennant, Tobacco lead for the Association of Directors of Public Health

For more information and support to quit people can visit and our ‘How to quit’ page.


For further information or to get further comment from national experts please contact Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive, ASH on 07976 935 987 [email protected]

Detailed FAQs about smoking and covid-19 available here.

¹ The survey was conducted between 15th and 21st April. It was an online survey using the YouGov panel with 1004 respondents. More information on the YouGov Covid Tracker.
² Simons D., Brown J., Shahab L., Perski O. The association of smoking status with SARS- CoV-2 infection, hospitalisation and mortality from COVID-19: A living rapid evidence review. Update 23 April 2020.
³ Public Health England, Local Tobacco Control Profiles
The Smokefree Action Coalition is a coalition of over 300 organisations committed to ending the harm caused by smoking
Breathe 2025 is a campaign to tackle smoking in Yorkshire and Humber
⁴ Ex-smokers includes anyone who has ever smoked and since quit. They made up 31% of respondents to the survey.
⁵ Calculations are by Dr Leonie Brose at National Addictions Centre, King’s College London. The proportions in the YouGov survey are applied to the most recent available ONS population estimates for UK, England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland
Royal College of Physicians report Hiding in Plain Sight


Sophie Squire

Account Executive

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