The study, funded by Health Canada and other international agencies, is part of the University's International Tobacco Control (ITC) Project, the first-ever international cohort study on tobacco use. The overall goal is to measure the psychosocial and behavioural impact of key interventions at the national level of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
The ITC study surveyed 6,870 smokers and vape users in Australia, Canada, England and the United States during the first global wave of COVID-19 between April and June 2020. The team examined the association between COVID-19 and thoughts of quitting smoking, changes in smoking, and factors related to positive changes such as trying to quit or reduce smoking, the report said.
The researchers found that although nearly half of smokers reported that COVID-19 made them think about quitting, most smokers did not change their smoking habits during the early phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. Only 1.1 per cent of smokers in the four countries tried to quit smoking and 14.2 per cent reduced smoking, but this was offset by the 14.6 per cent who increased smoking, with 70.2 per cent reporting no change.
“It is important to note that population-level stressful events, such as 9/11 and natural disasters, have often led to increased smoking,” said Geoffrey Fong, professor of psychology at Waterloo and principal investigator of the ITC Project. “So, our findings that there was no net increase in smoking in response to COVID-19 may actually represent a positive result for public health," he said.