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Concerns about COVID blip as smokers quit quitting during lockdown

Posted 14 May, 2021

There were plenty of disruptions during COVID and unfortunately quitting smoking was one of them. During last year’s lockdown, Quitline received significantly fewer calls as more people began working from home, and as Melbourne was plunged into another seven-day lockdown late last week, health groups warn Victorians may delay quitting again.

There were 360 more calls to the Quitline between January and March 2020 than at the same time in 2019, but during the period of hard lockdown from July to September, there were 992 less calls to the Quitline compared to the same period in 2019.

‘Undoubtedly COVID had an impact on people’s resolve to stop smoking, which is why we’re ramping up our efforts this year on World No Tobacco Day (May 31),’ said Dr Sarah White of Quit Victoria.

‘We’d say to people who wanted to give up, or who might have slipped back into smoking, don’t quit trying to quit.’

While data shows daily smoking rates have declined significantly for Victorian adults since 2001, it’s suspected COVID has disrupted that trend with Cancer Council Victoria and Quit keen to help people get back on track. 

Despite the drop in website traffic and calls, the data revealed that smokers were staying longer on the Quit website, reading extensively and using the online tools to plan their quitting strategy.

With no anti-smoking campaigns on air during the pandemic, Dr White says fewer people were inspired to quit, but she hopes that a heightened awareness of good health combined with this year’s World No Tobacco Day will provide the impetus to act.

Dave Lovell is a tradie from Seaford who had been smoking for twenty years and who decided to quit when his wife became pregnant with their daughter.

‘Smoking accompanied basically everything I did. If I completed a task at work, I’d have a ciggie. Driving, coffee, food, having a drink with mates, basically everything was a trigger,’ says Dave. 

‘I’d tried a lot of ways to give up, patches, cold turkey, sprays. In the end, I tried medication and it worked a treat. I’d say don’t give up giving up.’

Research suggests that it may take some people 20 quit attempts at giving up before it finally sticks.

Evidence also suggests that people who use stop smoking medication alongside Quitline are much more likely to succeed than pursuing other methods.

‘We know the health and financial benefits of giving up smoking, we know the risks, and we know the sooner someone stops smoking the better off they will be,’ said Dr Sarah White of Quit.

‘Research shows that the most effective way to quit smoking is a combination of coaching and support, like the Quitline, and nicotine replacement therapy products or quitting medication,’ Dr White said.

‘Our Quitline counsellors are trained to provide personalised guidance and advice. They work with you to identify and manage your triggers, and develop new habits, so you can nip smoking in the bud, once and for all,’ she said.

Evidence shows the best way to stop smoking is to use a tailored quit counselling service such as Quitline on 13 7848 to beat triggers and habits, along with nicotine patches and either gum, lozenge or spray to manage cravings. For more quitting advice, visit https://www.quit.org.au/ or call the Quitline on 13 7848 between 8am and 8pm Monday to Friday. Quitline is a non-judgemental and culturally inclusive telephone service for all, including the LGBTIQ+ community. Aboriginal Quitline counsellors are also available.



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