Young smokers struggle to quit because of 'stress' of pandemic

Woman Speaking At Support Group Meeting For Mental Health Or Dependency Issues

According to NHS Digital data, dozens of young people under 18 have sought services to quit smoking - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Stress and anxiety made it harder for young smokers trying to quit the habit during the Covid crisis, it has been claimed.

NHS Digital data shows that between April last year and March this year, 47 young people under 18 used the NHS Stop Smoking Service to set a date to quit. 

Marten Payne, operational delivery manager at OneLife Suffolk said that the organisation has seen an increase in the number of long-term smokers packing in the habit, but that for young people it has been more of a challenge. 

At a follow-up meeting a month after their initial meeting only seven young people said they had given up.

Of the 46 under 18s who had set a target date to quit in the 12 month period prior to this, 12 were successful. 

Mr Payne said: “Our clients often tell us that one of the main reasons they smoke is due to feeling stressed or anxious and smoking appears to relieve this.  

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The pandemic has had an impact on young people - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

“With the various restrictions that have been in place, schools being closed, the inability to socialise with friends or go to after-school clubs, young people have been experiencing lots of changes in the last 18 months which has undoubtedly impacted their mental health,” he added.  

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Mr Payne went on to say that a Report by Cancer Research UK stated that the number of 18 to 34 year olds who classed themselves as smokers rose from 21.5% to 26.8% in the first of the lockdowns.  

These figures mirror the picture across England.

NHS data shows that out of 1,700 young smokers in England last year, 45% reported that they had quit – a 4% increase on the year before. However, this age group has the lowest success rate of any age category – well below the 61% of people aged 60 and above who had managed to stop.  

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Young people have the lowest success rate of quitting smoking  - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Hazel Cheeseman, deputy chief executive of Charity Action on Smoking and Health said: “Recent research highlighted that younger people appear to have been taking up or going back to smoking in larger numbers.  

"It appears likely that for younger people the stress of lockdown has led to more smoking while for older smokers, health fears have prompted more quitting," she added. 

OneLife Suffolk provides a free, non-judgmental Stop smoking service open to anyone aged 12 and over. If you would like to find out more see their website here.