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The Hidden Harms of Lockdowns: Decline in Smoking Reverses

It has been practically impossible to avoid coverage of global events surrounding Covid-19 over the past 18 months. Mainstream media outlets have focused almost exclusively on various statistics, hospitalizations, and death rates and have been keen to promote ‘locking down’ as a sure-fire way to protect public health.

However, recent studies suggest that several factors will undoubtedly cause health issues and deaths in years to come, which aren’t a direct result of Coronavirus. 

A recent study in the UK has found that after being in constant decline for 40 years, smoking has experienced a surge. The harms of which will be felt for years to come and may very well cause an increase in pressure on health services in the long term. 


Why has the Lockdown Led to an Increase in Smoking?

There are several reasons why the uptake in tobacco has increased during the lockdown. 

Stress

The study published by future health research and undertaken by Richard Sloggett suggests that the lockdown has resulted in an increase in stress, depression, and overall mental anguish.

 A study conducted in 2015 found that stress is a significant risk factor for cigarette smoking. While not entirely an ‘open goal’, it is fair to assume that a cigarette is one area of people’s lives where they do have a choice.

With record numbers of job losses, uncertainty, and financial pressures placed on a large proportion of the world’s population, it is not surprising that many feel stressed to breaking point.

Business Closures

Large swathes of the western world have been subject to arbitrary business closures in the name of ‘public safety’. 

In certain countries, subject to mandatory closure and restrictions, vape shops have been deemed ‘non-essential’, a prerequisite for trade. 

This is not limited to one country or state. A report featured by the BMJ suggests that only just over half of bricks and mortar vape shops were open as usual. 

With the lack of availability of smoking cessation products, many returned to the outlets they were familiar with (that were, of course, still open), purchasing tobacco to satisfy nicotine cravings.

Legislation

If closing stores wasn’t enough, the signing of the “vape mail ban” in January of this year required the United States Postal Service to stop delivering vaping products to home addresses. While the USPS ban has still not yet gone into effect, other major shipping services like FedEx and UPS were quick to announce that they too would stop delivering vaping products to home addresses in the United States.

UPS spokesperson Matthew O’Connor stated: 

Effective April 5, 2021, UPS will not transport vaping products to, from, or within the United States due to the increased complexity to ship those products.

With some rural nicotine users unable to acquire vaping supplies locally nor unable to purchase them for online delivery, their only viable option would be to return to smoking.

Demonization of Vaping

The ongoing hysterical portrayal of vaping as ‘harmful’ has received a boost with the rise of Covid-19.

As the saying goes, “never let a good crisis go to waste”…

Covid-19 has presented vaping detractors with a great opportunity and been weaponized and used as a ‘stick’ to beat the vaping industry. 

False equivalences have been drawn in several areas, aided by the prominent, highly publicized (and also quite isolated) EVALI cases in 2019 and 2020.

The general (and misinformed) claim is that vaping weakens the lungs and can cause increased susceptibility to Covid-19… 

Is this true?

A study performed by a research team from University College London stated in its findings and conclusion that… 

“There were no differences in diagnosed/suspected Covid-19 between never, current, and ex-vapers… Among UK adults, self-reported diagnosed/suspected Covid-19 was not associated with vaping status.”

What has been decided is that vaping is certainly safer than smoking, according to the European Society of Cardiology.


Is Vaping Safe?

As you will have seen above, according to current research, vaping is certainly safer than smoking. 

While both cigarettes and electronic devices contain nicotine (although it should be mentioned that this is entirely optional in electronic devices), the nicotine itself is not the problem. It is not thought to be a major cause of health problems.

When a cigarette is smoked, it uses combustion (burning). This produces a great many carcinogens that are then inhaled.  The same is not true of vaping, as there is no combustion. 

Regarding Covid-19, the study by University College London mentioned above found that people decided to quit any form of nicotine intake in several cases. =


What Does This Mean for the Future?

The picture going forward is not a pretty one.

As a result of media bias, political issues, socioeconomic factors, and vested interests by several parties, it is hard to ascertain the eventual outcome. 

What is certain is that an increase in the use of traditional tobacco products is not a good thing. It has been proven that smoking is highly addictive and extremely harmful to long-term health.

It has been proven to cause an increase in respiratory diseases (entirely outside of the sphere of Covid-19). 

When viewed through the prism of Covid-19, smoking causes exactly the kind of comorbidities that will transfer a person from a ‘healthy’ non-risk category to being ‘at risk’. 

Supporters of the recent restrictions claim that they seek to ‘save lives’ by supporting mandated measures. But it should be borne in mind that while Covid-19 is lethal in certain circumstances, its lethality pales in comparison when held against the statistics of smoking.

As a quick example…

According to the CDC, smoking-related deaths account for 20% of deaths each year in the United States. It also claims that over 8 million people will die of smoking-related illnesses by the year 2030…. That’s over 1300 deaths per day!

Unlike Covid, this isn’t a figure that has only existed and been monitored in the last 18 months. This situation has been ongoing for years. Also, this doesn’t consider that for every smoking-related death, another thirty people will suffer from a chronic smoking-related illness. 


Conclusion

This study showing an increase in the uptake of smoking traditional tobacco products, while UK-based, highlights a worrying trend. Most are in agreement that we need to limit the spread and effects of Covid-19. However, suppose the measures taken encourage behaviors that have been established to lead to other long-term illnesses. In that case, the goal of protecting health services and lives is not quite as virtuous. 

Jamie G.

After being a smoker for several years, I discovered vaping when a friend bought me a disposable e-cigarette. Since then, I've worked my way up through various devices, becoming an expert in rebuildable tanks, atomizers, and all things to do with vaping. I even make my own e-juice! You’ll find me on the weekend, toolkit in hand, surrounded by box mods, wicks, and wires, trying to get the perfect cloud.

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