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CS N ° 36/2020 - World No Tobacco Day: the number of traditional cigarette smokers decreases during the lockdown, consumers of heated tobacco and e-cig increase

CS N ° 36/2020 - World No Tobacco Day: the number of traditional cigarette smokers decreases during the lockdown, consumers of heated tobacco and e-cig increase

The number of traditional cigarette smokers decreased during the lockdown, but consumers of heated tobacco and electronic cigarettes increased, and the number of those who tried them for the first time during this period was also high. Among traditional cigarette smokers, those who failed to quit have increased the number of cigarettes smoked.

The data of the Italian National Institute of Health (ISS) was compiled in collaboration with the Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research, the Vita-Salute S. Raffaele University, the Institute for the study, prevention and the Oncological Network (ISPRO) and the Doxa, and was presented today May 29, at the ISS in a streaming conference, on the occasion of the World No Tobacco Day.

The Institute also made an emotional video for the event describing the devastating effects of cigarette smoking on health, and an invitation to quit with the help of the ISS Help line:  800 554088

Link to the Italian video

The survey, carried out with the aim of understanding the effects of the lockdown on smoking habits of Italians, was carried out in April 2020 via an anonymous online questionnaire.

Regarding these trends, we observed a decrease from 23.3% to 21.9% in the prevalence of smokers during the lockdown, a difference of 1.4 percent which corresponds to an estimated 630,000 fewer smokers (about 334,000 men and 295,000 women). With respect to age groups, about 206,000 young people between 18-34 years of age, 270,000 between 35 and 54 years, and about 150,000 between 55 and 74 years ceased to consume cigarettes. In addition, another 3.5% of the population, while not completely ceasing the consumption of tobacco products, has decreased the amount consumed.

"The survey data,” says Roberta Pacifici, director of the National Addiction and Doping Center of the ISS, “tell us that the highly motivated smoker can quit, and that situations of particular health emergency can become a great health opportunity."

Unfortunately, however, 9.0% of the population (about 3.9 million people) increased or started tobacco consumption during the lockdown. In fact, 8.55% has increased the number of cigarettes smoked per day and 218,000 people have become new smokers. The average consumption of cigarettes per day went from 10.9 to 12.7 which corresponds to a percentage increase of 9.1.

The percentage of cigarettes consumed per day by women was particularly high at 15.2% compared to 3.6% in men.

The electronic cigarette: 436 thousand more vapors during the lockdown

The percentage of electronic cigarettes (occasional and habitual) before the lockdown was 8.1% of the Italian population (ages 18-74). During the lockdown this percentage rose to 9.1% which corresponds to approximately 436,000 people. Among the electronic cigarette users who worsened their consumption during the lockdown, 38.9% increased the number of puffs, 18.0% regularly started using it again, 17.0% of occasional users became habitual (every day), 13.0% of rare users (1-2 times in life) became a habitual, and 13% that had never used electronic cigarettes tried it for the first time during the lockdown.

Heated tobacco products: among users who worsened during the lockdown, 1 in 5 people who previously were only occasional users became habitual, while a full half who had never used started using it for the first time, especially among young people.

The percentage of users of heated tobacco products (occasional and habitual) before the lockdown was 4.1% of Italians (ages 18-74), or about 1,787,600 people. During the lockdown this percentage rose to 4.4% with an increase in electronic cigarette users of approximately 130,800 people. Of the users of heated tobacco products who worsened their consumer status during the lockdown, 45.0% began using them, 23.1% was an occasional consumer and became habitual (every day), 18.6% used it rarely (1-2 times in their life) and became a regular consumer, 13.4% started using it again during the lockdown.

Those who reported having increased the use of heated tobacco products during the lockdown are mainly young people (18-34 years) and adults (35-54 years), those with a high level of education, and those who live with children (0-14 aa), who occasionally or regularly use electronic cigarettes.

The percentage of those who use tobacco products and e-cigarettes is significantly higher among those who have declared that they have "at risk" alcohol consumption, consume cannabis or engage in gambling.

Help line against Smoking and Anti-Smoking Centers: fewer calls but longer

During the lockdown period, operators managed an average of 31 calls per day (52 in the pre lockdown period) but the duration of each call doubled from about 8 minutes to about 15 minutes. The calls of smokers with related smoking conditions and smokers incentivized to quit for fear of being more vulnerable to COVID-19 have increased. TVF operators are exponentially increasing their offer of smoking cessation routes (from 3% to 18%; from 150 activated routes in 9 months to 172 during the lockdown period) and the offer of information has doubled on health (from 33% to 63%) and psychological support (from 4% to 8%).

There was no shortage of calls from family members of smokers who found themselves subjected to passive smoking at home or from parents of teenagers who noticed the use of smoking products by their children.

As every year, the ISS has launched the update of the Anti-Smoking Centers present on the country. This time coincided with the lockdown, therefore of the 292 Anti-smoking Centers surveyed at the ISS, about 100 did not report their activity. In the last three months many Anti-Smoking Centers have been supporting the COVID-19 emergency by making available premises or staff, and at the same time they have continued their activities by offering users remote assistance (telephone calls, SMS, video calls).