The role of fear of COVID-19 in motivation to quit smoking and reductions in cigarette smoking: a preliminary investigation of at-risk cigarette smokers

In the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic (late April 2020 to late May 2020), we conducted an online survey study evaluating a range of clinical and health behaviors in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time of our survey, media articles and public health agencies were reporting on the possible risk of poorer COVID-19 outcomes as a result of increased age and medical comorbidity status. In addition, there were also reports on the potential of cigarette smoking to be associated with poorer COVID-19 outcomes. We were curious as to whether age or having medical comorbidities would increase motivation to quit cigarette smoking, or lead to actual changes in smoking patterns, among daily cigarette smokers.  We were also curious as to whether fears related to the COVID-19 pandemic influenced smoking patterns. In our survey results, we found that fear of COVID-19 remained the most consistent independent factor predicting motivation to quit smoking and actual reductions in cigarette smoking patterns, more strongly and consistently than age or medical comorbidity status. Accordingly, our study provides insight into the potentially greater relevance of psychological relative to more objective factors (e.g., age, medical comorbidity status) on motivations to quit smoking and actual changes in cigarette smoking patterns during the COVID-19 pandemic. These findings also suggest that the COVID-19 pandemic may be an apt time to scale up smoking cessation interventions for individuals who report smoking daily.

Read the full paper: Gold AK, Hoyt DL, Milligan M, Hiserodt ML, Samora J, Leyro TM, Zvolensky MJ, Otto MW (in press). The role of fear of COVID-19 in motivation to quit smoking and reductions in cigarette smoking: A preliminary investigation of at-risk cigarette smokers. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. doi: 10.1080/16506073.2021.1877340

Photo by: Ivan Radic

Pictured: Alexandra Gold

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